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THE FIRE OF ASSHURBANIPAL 

a superb weird novelette of a flaming 
gem that glowed with living fire . . . 

By ROBERT E. HOWARD 


DECEMBER 




H. P. EoVecraft 
Otis Adeibert Kline 
E. Hofitoann Price 
John Russell Fearn 
August W. Derleth 


COMING NEXT MONTH 


T he door communicating from the outer lobby to the club’s wide entrance 
stairs was built of heavy mortised timbers — a relic of the Prohibition days 
when ax-armed raiders might swoop down upon the place unheralded — and 
these were overlaid with a smooth coat of bright vermilion lacquer on which were 
painted golden dragons in the Chinese manner. Bone-white against this brilliant 
background, crucified with railway spikes, hung the naked body of a girl. From 
nail-pierced hands and feet small rivulets of bright-red blood writhed down like 
ruby-colored worms. In haste, perhaps, the slayers had neglected to strip off both her 
sandals, so that one foot showed gilt cross- straps on each side of the cruel spike which 
held it to the painted door, while the other was unclothed except for the stigmata 
of bright blood which ran down from the pierced instep. 

In the orange glow of a great Chinese lantern she hung against the red and 
golden panels in a hush of horror; yet she made a picture of appealing, tragic 
beauty. Her long, slim limbs, the slender waist, the hips which swelled in gracious 
curves, were beautiful as anything shaped by a master sculptor. Her breasts, drawn 
upward by the outstretched arms, were lovely as twin hemispheres of alabaster 
jeweled with coral. Her head had fallen forward in the utter flaccidness of death, 
and the fine, bright hair cascaded downward from her brow, veiling the horror of 
half-closed, glazing eyes and limp lips fallen open. 

Upon the Peking-blue of the rich Chinese rug spread on the floor before her the 
sandal she had lost gleamed emptily upon its side, its buckle broken, its golden heel 
and instep straps ripped almost clear away from the gilt sole. Somehow, death 
seemed incongruous here. In this resort of opulent magnificence, this temple dedi- 
cated to enjoyment of the vanities of life, death was as out of place as a murder 
scene injected in a Johann Strauss operetta. An odd place, surely, for a woman to 
be crucifled! . . . 

The pitiful story of what happened to this martyred girl, and the weird events 
that followed, make an eery story of unusual thrill and gripping interest, which you 
cannot afford to miss. It will be published complete in the January issvie of Weird 
Tales: 

Children of the Bat 

By SEABURY QUINN 

Also 


THE THING ON THE DOOR-STEP 

By H. P. Lovecraft 

A powerful tale by one of the supreme mas- 
ters of weird fiction — a taie in which the 
horror creeps and grows, to spring at last 
upon the reader in all its hideous totality. 


THE WOMAN IN ROOM 607 

By Thorp McClusky 

A strange, weird tale about a woman who 
clung too closely to life — a story about the 
morbid horror that flowed out from under 
the door of a room in the Hotei Northrup. 


THE HEADLESS MILLER OF KOBOLD’S 
KEEP 

By G. Garnet 

A powerful story of the degeneration of the 
Koboider family through centuries of in- 
breeding — the tale of a Caxton Bible, a 
searcher for antiques, and a grisly horror. 


THE DEAD MOAN LOW 

By Paul Ernst 

What was that faint, eery cry that sounded 
out as the body of the hypnotist’s wife was 
consigned to the flames? The story of a 
circus and an avenging Nemesis. 


FATE WEAVES A WEB 
By Alfred I. Tooke 

Destiny made a tangled snarl out of this 
man’s life when it wove a net from which 
there was no escape. An odd and curious 
story that you wiil enjoy. 


January WEIRD TALES .... Out December 1 


A MAGAZINE OF THE BIZARRE AND UNUSUAL 



REGISTERED IN U.S._PATENT OFFICE 


Volume 28 CONTENTS FOR DECEMBER, 1936 Number 5 


Cover Design J. Allen St. John 

Illustrating a scene in "The Fire of Asshurbani pal” 

iThe Fire of Asshurbanipal Robert E. Howard 514 

A posthumous tale about a skeleton that sat upon a throne, and a gem that shone with 
living fire 

Out of the Sun Granville S. Hoss 530 

An absorbing story of a scientist who tried to find out if there is life in the swirling heat 
of the sun 

Vespers Edgar Daniel Kramer 537 

Verse 

The Haunter of the Dark H. P. Lovecraft 538 

A powerful story about an old church that was shunned and feared by everybody 

portrait of a Murderer John Russell Fearn 554 

An odd story of hypnotic power and a gruesome tragedy in the hills 

Mother of Serpents Robert Bloch 563 

A tale about a Haitian president who disowned his mother, and the terrible curse uttered 
by a voodoo woman 


The Cyclops of Xoatl .... Otis Adelbert Kline and E. Hoffmann Price 570 

what was the weird monster that spread death and panic over a peaceful Mexican countryside? 

The Woman at Loon Point .... August W. Derleth and Mark Schorer 597 

The story of a snarling thing that growled and cowered in a lonely lodge in the woods, 
guarded by a hysterical girl 

The Album Amelia Reynolds Long 607 

A strange doom lurked within the pages of an old book, bound in human skin 

The Theater Upstairs Manly Wade Wellman 612 

An uncanny tale of a picture show in which dead actors flickered across the silver screen 

It Walks by Night Henry Kuttner 616 

A ghastly horror stalked through the crypts beneath the old graveyard 

Weird Story Reprint : 

j A Passion in the Desert Honore de Balzac 621 

The story of a strange infatuation of a panther for a French soldier 

The Eyrie « » . 632 

Ouf readers exchange opinions 


Published monthly by the Popular Fiction Publishing Company, 2457 East Washin^on Streep Indianapolis, Ind. Entered 
as second-class matter March 20, 1923, at the post office at Indianapolis, Ind., under the act of March 3, 1879. Single copies, 
25 cents. Subscription rates: One year -in the United States and possessions, Cuba, Mexico, South America, SpaiiL $2.50; 
Canada, $2.75 ; elsewhere, $3.00. English office: Otis A. Kline, c/o John Paradise, 86 Strand, W. C. 2, London. The pub* 
lishers are not re^onsible for the loss of unsolicited manuscripts, although every care will be taken of such material while in 
their possession. The contents of this magazine are fully protected by copyright and must not be reproduced either wholly or in 
part wiUiout permission from the publishers. 

NOIT — All manuscripts and communications should be addressed to the publishers' Chicago office at 840 North Michigan 
Annue, Chicago, ill. FARNSWORTH WRIGHT. Editor. 


Copyright 1936, by the Popular Fiction Publishing Company. 


COPyUGHTEO IN GREAT BRITAIN 


WEIRD TALES ISSUED Ist OF EACH MONTH 


W.x—l 


513 


Vhe 

lirt of Asshurbanipal 

By ROBERT E. HOWARD 


The tale of a silent dead sea of black stone set in the drifting sands of the 
desert, and of a flaming gem clutched in the bony fingers of 
a skeleton on an ancient throne 


Y AR ALI squinted carefully down 
the blue barrel of his Lee-Enfield, 
called devoutly on Allah and sent 
a bullet through the brain of a flying 
rider. 

"Allaho akbar!” 

The big Afghan shouted in glee, wav- 
ing his weapon above his head, "God is 
great! By Allah, sahib, I have sent an- 
other one of the dogs to Hell!” 

His companion peered cautiously over 
the rim of the sand-pit they had scooped 
with their hands. He was a lean and wiry 
American, Steve Clarney by name. 

"Good work, old horse,” said this per- 
son. "Four left. Look — they’re drawing 
off.” 


# Robert E. Howard is dead, but his 
genius lives on in his fascinating, 
vivid stories. He had the knack of 
depicting his characters in action so 
that they stepped out of the printed 
page and gripped the sympathies of 
the readers — Conan the barbarian 
adventurer — Solomon Kane, the dour 
Puritan soldier and redresser of 
wrongs — King Kuil, the valiant fighter 
from the shadowy kingdoms of the 
world's dawn— heroes all, and 
'doughty men of might. The posthu- 
mous weird tale by Mr. Howard pre- 
sented here, "The Fire of Asshurbani- 
pal," is an outre adventure story of 
much power. We commend if to you. 


The white-robed horsemen were indeed 
reining away, clustering together just out 
of accurate rifle-range, as if in council. 
There had been seven when they had first 
swooped down on the comrades, but the 
fire from the two rifles in the sand-pit 
had been deadly. 

"Look, sahib— they abandon the fray!” 

Yar Ali stood up boldly and shouted 
taunts at the departing riders, one of 
whom whirled and sent a bullet that 
kicked up sand thirty feet in front of the 
pit. 

"They shoot like the sons of dogs,” 
said Yar Ali in complacent self-esteem. 
"By Allah, did you see that rogue plunge 
from his saddle as my lead went home? 
Up, sahib; let us run after them and cut 
them down!” 

Paying no attention to this outrageous 
proposal — for he knew it was but one of 
the gestures Afghan nature continually 
demands — Steve rose, dusted off his 
breeches and gazing after the riders, now 
white specks far out on the desert, said 
musingly: "Those fellows ride as if they 
had some set purpose in mind — not a bit 
like men running from a licking.” 

"Aye,” agreed Yar Ali promptly and 
seeing nothing inconsistent with his pres- 
ent attitude and recent bloodthirsty sug- 
gestion, "they ride after more of their 
kind — they are hawks who give up their 
prey not quickly. We had best move Our 
position quickly, Steve sahib. They will 
come back — maybe in a few hours, may- 
be in a few days — it all depends on how 


514 


THE FIRE OF ASSHURBANIPAE 


515 



knew 


looked, if he opened his eyes, he 
stark black madness would be bis instant lot." 


far away lies the oasis of their tribe. But 
they will be back. We have guns and 
lives — they want both. And behold.” 

The Afghan levered out the empty 
shell and slipped a single cartridge into 
the breech of his rifle. 

"My last bullet, sahib.” 

Steve nodded. "I’ve got three left.” 

The raiders whom their bullets had 
knocked from the saddle had been looted 
by their own comrades. No use searching 
the bodies which lay in the sand for ammu- 
nition. Steve lifted his canteen and shook 
it. Not much water remained. He knew 
that Yar Ali had only a little more than 
he, though the big Afridi, bred in a bar- 
ren land, had used and needed less wa- 
ter than did the American; although the 
latter, judged from a white man’s stand- 
ards, was hard and tough as a wolf. As 
Steve unscrewed the canteen cap and 
drank very sparingly, he mentally re- 
viewed the chain of events that had led 
them to their present position. 

Wanderers, soldiers of fortune, thrown 
together by chance and attracted to each 
other by mutual admiration, he and Yar 
Ali had wandered from India up through 
Turkistan and down through Persia, an 
oddly assorted but highly capable pair. 
Driven by the restless urge of inherent 


wanderlust, their avowed purpose — 
which they swore to and sometimes be- 
lieved themselves — was the accumulation 
of some vague and undiscovered treasure, 
some pot of gold at the foot of some yet 
unborn rainbow. 

Then in ancient Shiraz they had heard 
of the Fire of Asshurbanipal. From the 
lips of an ancient Persian trader, who 
only half believed what he repeated to 
them, they heard the tale that he in turn 
had heard from the babbling lips of de- 
lirium, in his distant youth. He had 
been a member of a caravan, fifty years 
before, which, wandering far on the 
southern shore of the Persian Gulf trad- 
ing for pearls, had followed the tale of 
a rare pearl far into the desert. 

'The pearl, rumored found by a diver 
and stolen by a shaykh of the interior, 
they did not find, but they did pick up a 
Turk who was dying of starvation, thirst 
and a bullet wound in the thigh. As he 
died in delirium, he babbled a wild tale 
of a silent dead city of black stone set in 
the drifting sands of the desert far to the 
westward, and of a flaming gem clutched 
in the bony fingers of a skeleton on an 
ancient throne. 

He had not dared bring it away with 
him, because of an overpowering brood- 


516 


WEIRD TALES 


ing horror that haunted the place, and 
thirst had driven him into the desert 
again, where Bedouins had pursued and 
wounded him. Yet he had escaped, rid- 
ing hard until his horse fell under him. 
He died without telling how he had 
reached the mythical city in the first place, 
but the old trader thought he must have 
come from the northwest — a deserter 
from the Turkish army, making a des- 
perate attempt to reach the Gulf. 

The men of the caravan had made no 
attempt to plunge still further into the 
desert in search of the city; for, said the 
old trader, they believed it to be the 
ancient, ancient City of Evil spoken of in 
the Necronomicon of the mad Arab Al- 
hazred — the city of the dead on which an 
ancient curse rested. Legends named it 
vaguely: the Arabs called it Beled-el- 
'Djinn, the City of Devils, and the Turks, 
'Kara-Shehr, the Black City. And the gem 
was that ancient and accursed jewel be- 
longing to a king of long ago, whom the 
Grecians called Sardanapalus and the 
Semitic peoples Asshurbanipal. 

S TEVE had been fascinated by the tale. 

Admitting to himself that it was 
doubtless one of the ten thousand cock- 
and-bull myths mooted about the East, 
still there was a possibility that he and 
Yar Ali had stumbled onto a trace of 
that pot of rainbow gold for which they 
searched. And Yar Ali had heard hints 
before of a silent city of the sands; tales 
had followed the eastbound caravans over 
the high Persian uplands and across the 
sands of Turkistan, into the mountain 
country and beyond— vague tales, whis- 
pers of a black city of the djinn, deep in 
the hazes of a haunted desert. 

So, following the trail of the legend, 
the companions had come from Shiraz to 
a village on the Arabian shore of the 
Persian Gulf, and there had heard more 
from an old man who had been a pearl- 


diver in his youth. The loquacity of 
age was on him and he told tales re- 
peated to him by wandering tribesmen 
who had them in turn from the wild 
nomads of the deep interior; and again 
Steve and Yar Ali heard of the still black 
city with giant beasts carved of stone, and 
the skeleton sultan who held the blazing 
gem. 

And so, mentally swearing at himself 
for a fool, Steve had made the plunge, 
and Yar Ali, secure in the knowledge 
that all things lay on the lap of Allah, 
had come with him. Their scanty supply 
of money had been just sufficient to pro- 
vide riding-camels and provisions for a 
bold flying invasion of the unknown. 
Their only chart had been the vague 
rumors that placed the supposed location 
of Kara-Shehr. 

There had been days of hard travel, 
pushing the beasts and conserving water 
and food. Then, deep in the desert they 
invaded, they had encountered a blinding 
sand-wind in which they had lost the 
camels. After that came long miles of 
staggering through the sands, battered by 
a flaming sun, subsisting on rapidly 
dwindling water from their canteens, and 
food Yar Ali had in a pouch. No 
thought of finding the mythical city now. 
They pushed on blindly, in hope of 
stumbling upon a spring; they knew that 
behind them no oases lay within a dis- 
tance they could hope to cover on foot. 
It was a desperate chance, but their only 
one. 

Then white-clad hawks had swooped 
down on them, out of the haze of the 
skyline, and from a shallow and hastily 
scooped trench the adventurers had ex- 
changed shots with the wild riders who 
circled them at top speed. The bullets 
of the Bedouins had skipped through 
their makeshift fortifications, knocking 
dust into their eyes and flicking bits of 


THE FIRE OF ASSHURBANIPAL 


517 


cloth from their garments, but by good 
chance neither had been hit. 

Their one bit of luck, reflected Clar- 
ney, as he cursed himself for a fool. 
What a mad venture it had been, any- 
way! To think that two men could so 
dare the desert and live, much less wrest 
from its abysmal bosom the secrets of the 
ages! And that crazy tale of a skeleton 
hand gripping a flaming jewel in a dead 
city — bosh! What utter rot! He must 
have been crazy himself to credit it, the 
American decided with the clarity of view 
that suffering and danger bring. 

"Well, old horse,” said Steve, lifting 
his rifle, "let’s get going. It’s a toss-up if 
we die of thirst or get sniped off by the 
desert-brothers. Anyway, we’re doin’ no 
good here.” 

"God gives,” agreed Yar Ali cheer- 
fully. "The sun sinks westward. Soon 
the coolness of night will be upon us. 
Perhaps we shall find water yet, sahib. 
Look, the terrain changes to the .south.” 

Clarney shaded his eyes against the dy- 
ing sun. Beyond a level, barren expanse 
of several miles width, the land did in- 
deed become more broken; aborted hills 
were in evidence. The American slung 
his rifle over his arm and sighed. 

"Heave ahead; we’re food for the buz- 
zards anyhow.” 

T he sun sank and the moon rose, 
flooding the desert with weird silver 
light. Drifted sand glimmered in long 
ripples, as if a sea had suddenly been 
frozen into immobility. Steve, parched 
fiercely by a thirst he dared not fully 
quench, cursed beneath his breath. The 
desert was beautiful beneath the moon, 
with the beauty of a cold marble lorelei 
to lure men to destruction. What a mad 
quest! his weary brain reiterated; the Fire 
of Asshurbanipal retreated into the mazes 
of unreality with each dragging step. 
The desert became not merely a material 


wasteland, but the gray mists of the lost 
eons, in whose depths dreamed sunken 
things. 

Clarney stumbled and swore; was he 
failing already.^ Yar Ali swung along 
with the easy, tireless stride of the moun- 
tain man, and Steve set his teeth, nerving 
himself to greater effort. They were en- 
tering the broken country at last, and the 
going became harder. Shallow gullies 
and narrow ravines knifed the earth with 
wavering patterns. Most of them were 
nearly filled with sand, and there was no 
trace of water. 

"This country was once oasis country,” 
commented Yar Ali. "Allah knows how 
many centuries ago the sand took it, as 
the sand has taken so many cities in 
Turkistan.” 

They swung on like dead men in a 
gray land of death. The moon grew red 
and sinister as she sank, and shadowy 
darkness settled over the desert before 
they had reached a point where they 
could see what lay beyond the broken 
belt. Even the big Afghan’s feet began 
to drag, and Steve kept himself erect 
only by a savage effort of will. At last 
they toiled up a sort of ridge, on the 
southern side of which the land sloped 
downward. 

"We rest,” declared Steve. “There’s 
no water in this hellish country. No use 
in goin’ on for ever. My legs are stiff as 
gun-barrels. I couldn’t take another step 
to save my neck. Here’s a kind of stunted 
cliff, about as high as a man’s shoulder, 
facing south. We’ll sleep in the lee of it.” 

"And shall we not keep watch, Steve 
sahib?” 

"We don’t,” answered Steve. "If the 
Arabs cut our throats while we’re asleep, 
so much the better. We’re goners any- 
how.” 

With which optimistic observation 
Clarney lay down stiffly in the deep sand. 
But Yar Ali stood, leaning forward^ 


518 


WEIRD TALES 


straining his eyes into the elusive dark- 
ness that turned the star-flecked horizons 
to murky wells of shadow. 

"Something lies on the skyline to the 
south,” he muttered uneasily. "A hill.? I 
cannot tell, or even be sure that I see any- 
thing at all.” 

"You’re seeing mirages already,” said 
Steve irritably. "Lie down and sleep.” 

And so saying Steve slumbered. 

The sun in his eyes awoke him. He 
sat up, yawning, and his first sensation 
was that of thirst. He lifted his canteen 
and wet his lips. One drink left. Yar Ali 
still slept. Steve’s eyes wandered over the 
southern horizon and he started. He 
kicked the recumbent Afghan. 

"Hey, wake up, Ali. I reckon you 
weren’t seeing things after all. There’s 
your hill — and a queer-lookin’ one, too.” 

The Afridi woke as a wild thing 
wakes, instantly and completely, his hand 
leaping to his long knife as he glared 
about for enemies. His gaze followed 
Steve’s pointing fingers and his eyes 
widened. 

"By Allah and by Allah!” he swore. 
"We have come into a land of djinn! 
That is no hill — it is a city of stone in 
the midst of the sands!” 

Steve bounded to his feet like a steel 
spring released. As he gazed with bated 
breath, a fierce shout escaped his lips. At 
his feet the slope of the ridge ran down 
into a wide and level expanse of sand 
that stretched away southward. And far 
away, across those sands, to his straining 
sight the "hill” slowly took shape, like 
a mirage growing from the drifting 
sands. 

He saw great uneven walls, massive 
battlements; all about crawled the sands 
like a living, sensate thing, drifted high 
about the walls, softening the rugged out- 
lines. No wonder that at first glance the 
whole had appeared like a hill. 

"Kara-Shehr!” Clarney exclaimed 


fiercely. "Beled-el-Djinn! The city of 
the dead! It wasn’t a pipe-dream after 
all! We’ve found it — by Heaven, we’ve 
found it! Come on! Let’s go!” 

Y ar ali shook his head uncertainly 
and muttered something about evil 
djinn under his breath, but he followed. 
The sight of the ruins had swept from 
Steve his thirst and hunger, and the 
fatigue that a few hours’ sleep had not 
fully overcome. He trudged on swiftly, 
oblivious to the rising heat, his eyes 
gleaming with the lust of the explorer. It 
was not altogether greed for the fabled 
gem that had prompted Steve Clarney to 
risk his life in that grim wilderness; deep 
in his soul lurked the age-old heritage of 
the white man, the urge to seek out the 
hidden places of the world, and that urge 
had been stirred to the depths by the 
ancient tales. 

Now as they crossed the level wastes 
that separated the broken land from the 
city, they saw the shattered walls take 
clearer form and shape, as if they grew 
out of the morning sky. The city seemed 
built of huge blocks of black stone, but 
how high the walls had been there was 
no telling because of the sand that drifted 
high about their base; in many places 
they had fallen away and the sand hid the 
fragments entirely. 

The sun reached her zenith and thirst 
intruded itself in spite of zeal and en- 
thusiasm, but Steve fiercely mastered his 
suffering. His lips were parched and 
swollen, but he would not take that last 
drink until he had reached the ruined 
city. Yar Ali wet his lips from his own 
canteen and tried to share the remainder 
with his friend. Steve shook his head 
and plodded on. ^ 

In the ferocious heat of the desert 
afternoon they reached the ruin, and 
passing through a wide breach in the 
crumbling wall, gazed on the dead city;. 


THE FIRE OF ASSHURBANIPAt 


519 


Sand choked the ancient streets and lent 
fantastic form to huge, fallen and half- 
hidden columns. So crumbled into de- 
cay and so covered with sand was the 
whole that the explorers could make out 
little of the original plan of the city; now 
it was but a waste of drifted sand and 
crumbling stone over which brooded, like 
an invisible cloud, an aura of unspeak- 
able antiquity. 

But directly in front of them ran a 
broad avenue, the outline of which not 
even the ravaging sands and winds of 
time had been able to efface. On either 
side of the wide way were ranged huge 
columns, not unusually tall, even allow- 
ing for the sand that hid their bases, but 
incredibly massive. On the top of each 
column stood a figure carved from solid 
stone — great, somber images, half 
human, half bestial, partaking of the 
brooding brutishness of the whole city. 
Steve cried out in amazement. 

"The winged bulls of Nineveh! The 
bulls with men’s heads! By the saints, 
Ali, the old tales are true! The Assyrians 
did build this city! The whole tale’s true! 
They must have come here when the 
Babylonians destroyed Assyria — why, this 
scene’s a dead ringer for pictures I’ve 
seen — reconstructed scenes of old Nin- 
eveh! And look!” 

He pointed down the broad street to 
the great building which reared at the 
other end, a colossal, brooding edifice 
whose columns and walls of solid black 
stone blocks defied the winds and sands 
of time. The drifting, obliterating sea 
washed about its foundations, overflow- 
ing into its doorways, but it would re- 
quire a thousand years to inundate the 
whole structure. 

"An abode of devils!” muttered Yar 
Ali, uneasily. 

"The temple of Baal!” exclaimed 
Steve, "Come on! I was afraid we’d find 


all the palaces and temples hidden by the 
sand and have to dig for the gem.” 

"Little good it will do us,” muttered 
Yar Ali. "Here we die.” 

"I reckon so.” Steve unscrewed the 
cap of his canteen. "Let’s take our last 
drink. Anyway, we’re safe from the 
Arabs. They’d never dare come here, 
with their superstitions. We’ll drink and 
then we’ll die, I reckon, but first we’ll 
find the jewel. When I pass out, I want 
to have it in my hand. Maybe a few cen- 
turies later some lucky son-of-a-gun will 
find our skeletons — and the gem. Here’s 
to him, whoever he is!” 

With which grim jest Clamey drained 
his canteen and Yar Ali followed suit. 
They had played their last ace; the rest 
lay on the lap of Allah. 

T hey strode up the broad way, and 
Yar Ali, utterly fearless in the face 
of human foes, glanced nervously to 
right and left, half expecting to see a 
horned and fantastic face leering at him 
from behind a column. Steve himself felt 
the somber antiquity of the place, and 
almost found himself fearing a rush of 
bronze war chariots down the forgotten 
streets, or to hear the sudden menacing 
flare of bronze trumpets. The silence in 
dead cities was so much more intense, he 
reflected, than that on the open desert. 

They came to the portals of the great 
temple. Rows of immense columns 
flanked the wide doorway, which was 
ankle-deep in sand, and from which 
sagged massive bronze frameworks that 
had once braced mighty doors, whose 
polished woodwork had rotted away cen- 
turies ago. 'They passed into a mighty 
hall of misty twilight, whose shadowy 
stone roof was upheld by columns like 
the trunks of forest trees. The whole 
effect of the architecture was one of awe- 
some magnitude and sullen, breath-tak- 


520 


IWEIRD TALES 


ing splendor, like a temple built by 
somber giants for the abode of dark gods. 

Yar Ali walked fearfully, as if he ex- 
pected to awake sleeping gods, and Steve, 
without the Afridi’s superstitions, yet felt 
the gloomy majesty of the place lay som- 
ber hands on his soul. 

No trace of a footprint showed in the 
deep dust on the floor; half a century 
had passed since the affrighted and devil- 
ridden Turk had fled these silent halls. 
As for the Bedouins, it was easy to see 
why those superstitious sons of the desert 
shunned this haunted city — and haunted 
it was, not by actual ghosts, perhaps, but 
by the shadows of lost splendors. 

As they trod the sands of the hall, 
which seemed endless, Steve pondered 
many questions: How did these fugitives 
from the wrath of frenzied rebels build 
this city? How did they pass through 
the country of their foes? — for Babylonia 
lay between Assyria and the Arabian 
desert. Yet there had been no other place 
for them to go; westward lay Syria and 
the sea, and north and east swarmed the 
"dangerous Medes”, those fierce Aryans 
whose aid had stiffened the arm of 
Babylon to smite her foe to the dust. 

Possibly, thought Steve, Kara-Shehr — 
whatever its name had been in those dim 
days — had been built as an outpost bor- 
der city before the fall of the Assyrian 
empire, whither survivals of that over- 
throw fled. At any rate it was possible 
that Kara-Shehr had outlasted Nineveh 
by some centuries — a strange, hermit city, 
no doubt, cut off from the rest of the 
world. 

Surely, as Yar Ali had said, this was 
once fertile country, watered by oases; 
and doubtless in the broken country they 
had passed over the night before, there 
had been quarries that furnished the 
stone for the building of the city. 

Then what caused its downfall? Did 
the encroachment of the sands and the 


filling up of the springs cause the people 
to abandon it, or was Kara-Shehr a city 
of silence before the sands crept over the 
walls? Did the downfall come from 
within or without? Did civil war blot out 
the inhabitants, or were they slaughtered 
by some powerful foe from the desert? 
Clarney shook his head in baffled chagrin. 
The answers to those questions were lost 
in the maze of forgotten ages. 

''Allaho akbar!” They had traversed 
the great shadowy hall and at its further 
end they came upon a hideous black stone 
altar, behind which loomed an ancient 
god, bestial and horrific. Steve shrugged 
his shoulders as he recognized the mon- 
strous aspect of the image — aye, that was 
Baal, on which black altar in other ages 
many a screaming, writhing, naked vic- 
tim had offered up its naked soul. The 
idol embodied in its utter, abysmal and 
sullen bestiality the whole soul of this 
demoniac city. Surely, thought Steve, the 
builders of Nineveh and Kara-Shehr were 
cast in another mold from the people of 
today. Their art and culture were too 
ponderous, too grimly barren of the 
lighter aspects of humanity, to be wholly 
human, as modem man understands hu- 
manity. Their architecture was repellent; 
of high skill, yet so massive, sullen and 
brutish in effect as to be almost beyond 
the comprehension of moderns. 

The adventurers passed through a nar- 
row door which opened in the end of the 
hall close to the idol, and came into a 
series of wide, dim, dusty chambers con- 
nected by column-flanked corridors. 
Along these they strode in the gray ghost- 
ly light, and came at last to a wide stair, 
whose massive stone steps led upward 
and vanished in the gloom. Here Yar Ali 
halted. 

"We have dared much, sahib,” he mut- 
tered. "Is it wise to dare more?” 

Steve, aquiver with eagerness, yet 


THE FIRE OF ASSHURBANIPAt 


521 


understood the Afghan’s mind. "You 
mean we shouldn’t go up those stairs?” 

"They have an evil look. To what 
chambers of silence and horror may they 
lead? When djinn haunt deserted build- 
ings, they lurk in the upper chambers. 
At any moment a demon may bite off 
our heads.” 

"We’re dead men anyhow,” grunted 
Steve. "But I tell you — you go on back 
through the hall and watch for the 
Arabs while I go upstairs.” 

"Watch for a wind on the horizon,” 
responded the Afghan gloomily, shifting 
his rifle and loosening his long knife in 
its scabbard. "No Bedouin comes here. 
Lead on, sahib. Thou’rt mad after the 
manner of all Franks, but I would not 
leave thee to face the djinn alone.” 

So the companions mounted the mas- 
sive stairs, their feet sinking deep into 
the accumulated dust of centuries at each 
step. Up and up they went, to an in- 
credible height, until the depths below 
merged into a vague gloom. 

"We walk blind to our doom, sahib," 
muttered Yar Ali. "Allah il allah — and 
Muhammad is his Prophet! Nevertheless, 
I feel the presence of slumbering Evil 
and never again shall I hear the wind 
blowing up the Khyber Pass.” 

Steve made no reply. He did not like 
the breathless silence that brooded over 
the ancient temple, nor the grisly gray 
light that filtered from some hidden 
source. 

Now above them the gloom lightened 
somewhat and they emerged into a vast 
circular chamber, grayly illumined by 
light that filtered in through the high, 
pierced ceiling. But another radiance lent 
itself to the illumination. A cry burst 
from Steve’s lips, echoed by Yar Ali. 

S TANDING on the top step of the broad 
stone stair, they looked directly across 
the broad chamber, with its dust-covered 


heavy tile floor and bare black stone 
walls. From about the center of the 
chamber, massive steps led up to a stone 
dais, and on this dais stood a marble 
throne. About this throne glowed and 
shimmered an uncanny light, and the 
awe-struck adventurers gasped as they 
saw its source. On the throne slumped a 
human skeleton, an almost shapeless mass 
of moldering bones. A fleshless hand 
sagged outstretched upon the broad mar- 
ble throne-arm, and in its grisly clasp 
there pulsed and throbbed like a living 
thing, a great crimson stone. 

The Fire of Asshurbanipal! Even after 
they had found the lost city Steve had not 
really allowed himself to believe that they 
would find the gem, or that it even exist- 
ed in reality. Yet he could not doubt the 
evidence of his eyes, dazzled by that evil, 
incredible glow. With a fierce shout he 
sprang across the chamber and up the 
steps. Yar Ali was at his heels, but when 
Steve would have seized the gem, the 
Afghan laid a hand on his arm. 

"Wait!” exclaimed the big Muham- 
madan. "Touch it not yet, sahib! A curse 
lies on ancient things — and surely this is 
a thing triply accursed! Else why has it 
lain here untouched in a country of 
thieves for so many centuries? It is not 
well to disturb the possessions of the 
dead.” 

"Bosh!” snorted the American. "Su- 
perstitions! The Bedouins were scared by 
the tales that have come down to ’em 
from their ancestors. Being desert-dwell- 
ers they mistrust cities anyway, and no 
doubt this one had an evil reputation in 
its lifetime. And nobody except Bedou- 
ins have seen this place before, except 
that Turk, who was probably half de- 
mented with suffering. 

"These bones may be those of the king 
mentioned in the legend — the dry desert 
air preserves such things indefinitely — 
but I doubt it. May be Assyrian — most 


522 


WEIRD TALES 


likely Arab — some beggar that got the 
gem and then died on that throne for 
some reason or other.” 

The Afghan scarcely heard him. He 
was gazing in fearful fascination at the 
great stone, as a hypnotized bird stares 
into a serpent’s eye. 

"Look at it, sahib!” he whispered. 
"What is it? No such gem as this was 
ever cut by mortal hands! Look how it 
throbs and pulses like the heart of a 
cobra!” 

Steve was looking, and he was aware 
of a strange undefined feeling of uneasi- 
ness. Well versed in the knowledge of 
precious stones, he had never seen a stone 
like this. At first glance he had supposed 
it to be a monster ruby, as told in the 
legends. Now he was not sure, and he 
had a nervous feeling that Yar Ali was 
tight, that this was no natural, normal 
gem. He could not classify the style in 
which it was cut, and such was the power 
of its lurid radiance that he found it difii- 
cult to gaze at it closely for any length of 
time. The whole setting was not one cal- 
culated to soothe restless nerves. The 
deep dust on the floor suggested an un- 
wholesome antiquity; the gray light 
evoked a sense of unreality, and the 
heavy black walls towered grimly, hint- 
ing at hidden things. 

"Let’s take the stone and go!” muttered 
Steve, an unaccustomed panicky dread 
rising in his bosom. 

"Wait!” Yar Ali’s eyes were blazing, 
and he gazed, not at the gem, but at the 
sullen stone walls. "We are flies in the 
lair of the spider! Sahib, as Allah lives, 
it is more than the ghosts of old fears 
that lurk over this city of horror! I feel 
the presence of peril, as I have felt it be- 
fore — as I felt it in a jungle cavern where 
a python lurked unseen in the darkness 
— as I felt it in the temple of Thuggee 
where the hidden stranglers of Siva 


crouched to spring upon us — as I feel it 
now, tenfold!” 

Steve’s hair prickled. He knew that 
Yar Ali was a grim veteran, not to be 
stampeded by silly fear or senseless panic; 
he well remembered the incidents re- 
ferred to by the Afghan, as he remem- 
bered other occasions upon which Yar 
Ali’s Oriental telepathic instinct had 
warned him of danger before that dan- 
ger was seen or heard. 

"What is it, Yar Ali?” he whispered. 

The Afghan shook his head, his eyes 
filled with a weird mysterious light as he 
listened to the dim occult promptings of 
his subconsciousness. 

"I know not; I know it is close to us, 
and that it is very ancient and very evil. 

I think ” Suddenly he halted and 

wheeled, the eery light vanishing from 
his eyes to be replaced by a glare of wolf- 
like fear and suspicion. 

“Hark, sahib!” he snapped. "Ghosts 
or dead men mount the stair!” 

Steve stiffened as the stealthy pad of 
soft sandals on stone reached his ear. 

"By Judas, Ali!” he rapped; "some- 
thing’s out there ” 

The ancient walls re-echoed to a chorus 
of wild yells as a horde of savage figures 
flooded the chamber. For one dazed in- 
sane instant Steve believed wildly that 
they were being attacked by re-embodied 
warriors of a vanished age; then the spite- 
ful crack of a bullet past his ear and the 
acrid smell of powder told him that their 
foes were material enough. Clarney 
cursed; in their fancied security they had 
been caught like rats in a trap by the pur- 
suing Arabs. 

E ven as the American threw up his 
'rifle, Yar Ali fired point-blank from 
the hip with deadly effect, hurled his 
empty rifle into the horde and went down 
the steps like a hurricane, his three-foot 
Khyber knife shimmering in his hairy 


THE FIRE OF ASSHURBANIPAL 


523 


hand. Into his gusto for battle went real 
relief that his foes were human. A bul- 
let ripped the turban from his head, but 
an Arab went down with a split skull 
beneath the hillman’s first, shearing 
stroke. 

A tall Bedouin clapped his gun-muzzle 
to the Afghan’s side, but before he could 
pull the trigger, Clarney’s bullet scattered 
his brains. The very number of the at- 
tackers hindered their onslaught on the 
big Afridi, whose tigerish quickness made 
shooting as dangerous to themselves as to 
him. The bulk of them swarmed about 
him, striking with simitar and rifle-stock 
while others charged up the steps after 
Steve. At that range there was no miss- 
ing; the American simply thrust his rifle 
muzzle into a bearded face and blasted 
it into a ghastly ruin. The others came 
on, screaming like panthers. 

And now as he prepared to expend his 
last cartridge, Clarney saw two things in 
one flashing instant — a wild warrior who, 
with froth on his beard and a heavy simi- 
tar uplifted, was almost upon him, and 
another who knelt on the floor drawing a 
careful bead on the plunging Yar Ali. 
Steve made an instant choice and fired 
over the shoulder of the charging swords- 
man, killing the rifleman — and volunta- 
rily offering his own life for his friend’s; 
for the simitar was swinging at his own 
head. But even as the Arab swung, grunt- 
ing with the force of the blow, his san- 
daled foot slipped on the marble steps 
and the curved blade, veering erratically 
from its arc, clashed on Steve’s rifle-bar- 
rel. In an instant the American clubbed 
his rifle, and as the Bedouin recovered 
his balance and again heaved up the simi- 
tar, Clarney struck with all his rangy 
power, and stock and skull shattered to- 
gether. 

’Then a heavy ball smacked into his 
shoulder, sickening him with the shock. 

As he staggered dizzily, a Bedouin 


whipped a turban-cloth about his feet and 
jerked viciously. Clarney pitched head- 
long down the steps, to strike with stun- 
ning force. A gun-stock in a brown hand 
went up to dash out his brains, but an 
imperious command halted the blow. 

"Slay him not, but bind him hand and 
foot.” 

As Steve struggled dazedly against 
many gripping hands, it seemed to him 
that somewhere he had heard that im- 
perious voice before. 

T he American’s downfall had occur- 
red in a matter of seconds. Even as 
Steve’s second shot had cracked, Yar Ali 
had half severed a raider’s arm and him- 
self received a numbing blow from a 
rifle-stock on his left shoulder. His sheep- 
skin coat, worn despite the desert heat, 
saved his hide from half a dozen slash- 
ing knives. A rifle was discharged so 
close to his face that the powder burnt 
him fiercely, bringing a bloodthirsty yell 
from the maddened Afghan. As Yar Ali 
swung up his dripping blade the rifle- 
man, ashy-faced, lifted his rifle above his 
head in both hands to parry the down- 
ward blow, whereat the Afridi, with a 
yelp of ferocious exultation, shifted as a 
jungle-cat strikes and plunged his long 
knife into the Arab’s belly. But at that 
instant a rifle-stock, swung with all the 
hearty ill-will its wielder could evoke, 
crashed against the giant’s head, laying 
open the scalp and dashing him to his 
knees. 

With the dogged and silent ferocity of 
his breed, Yar Ali staggered blindly up 
again, slashing at foes he could scarcely 
see, but a storm of blows battered him 
down again, nor did his attackers cease 
beating him until he lay still. They 
would have finished him in short order 
then, but for another peremptory order 
from their chief; whereupon they bound 
the senseless knife-man and flung him 


923 


WEIRD TALES 


down alongside Steve, who was fully con- 
scious and aware of the savage hurt of 
the bullet in his shoulder. 

He glared up at the tall Arab who 
stood looking down at him. 

"Well, sahib,” said this one — and 
Steve saw he was no Bedouin — "do you 
not remember me?” 

Steve scowled; a bullet-wound is no 
aid to concentration. 

"You look familiar — by Judas! — ^you 
are! Nureddin El Mekru!” 

"I am honored! The sahib remem- 
bers!” Nureddin salaamed mockingly. 
"And you remember, no doubt, the occa- 
sion on which you made me a present of 
— this?” 

The dark eyes shadowed with bitter 
menace and the shaykh indicated a thin 
white scar on the angle of his jaw. 

"I remember,” snarled Clarney, whom 
pain and anger did not tend to make do- 
cile. "It was in Somaliland, years ago. 
You were in the slave-trade then. A 
wretch of a nigger escaped from you and 
took refuge with me. You walked into 
my camp one night in your high-handed 
way, started a row and in the ensuing 
scrap you got a butcher-knife across your 
face. I wish I’d cut your lousy throat.” 

"You had your chance,” answered the 
Arab. "Now the tables are turned.” 

"I thought your stamping-ground lay 
west,” growled Clarney; "Yemen and the 
Somali country.” 

"I quit the slave-trade long ago,” an- 
swered the shaykh. "It is an outworn 
game. I led a band of thieves in Yemen 
for a time; then again I was forced to 
change my location. I came here with a 
few faithful followers, and by Allah, 
those wild men nearly slit my throat at 
first. But I overcame their suspicions, 
and now I lead more men than have fol- 
lowed me in years. 

"They whom you fought off yesterday 
were my men — ^scouts I had sent out 


ahead. My oasis lies far to the west. We 
have ridden for many days, for I was on 
my way to this very city. When my scouts 
rode in and told me of two wanderers, I 
did not alter my course, for I had busi- 
ness first in Beled-el-Djinn. We rode 
into the city from the west and saw your 
tracks in the sand. We followed them, 
and you were blind buffalo who heard 
not our coming.” 

Steve snarled. "You wouldn’t have 
caught us so easy, only we thought no 
Bedouin would dare come into Kara- 
Shehr.” 

Nureddin nodded. "But I am no Bed- 
ouin. I have traveled far and seen many 
lands and many races, and I have read 
many books. I know that fear is smoke, 
that the dead are dead, and that djinn 
and ghosts and curses are mists that the 
wind blows away. It was because of the 
tales of the red stone that I came into 
this forsaken desert. But it has taken 
months to persuade my men to ride with 
me here. 

"But — I am here! And your presence 
is a delightful surprize. Doubtless you 
have guessed why I had you taken alive; 
I have more elaborate entertainment 
planned for you and that Pathan swine. 
Now — I take the Fire of Asshurbanipal 
and we will go.” 

H e turned toward the dais, and one 
of his men, a bearded one-eyed gi- 
ant, exclaimed, "Hold, my lord! Ancient 
evil reigned here before the days of Mu- 
hammad! The djinn howl through these 
halls when the winds blow, and men 
have seen ghosts dancing on the walls be- 
neath the moon. No mam of mortals has 
dared this black city for a thousand years 
— save one, half a century ago, who fled 
shrieking. 

"You have come here from Yemen; 
you do not know the ancient curse on this 
foul city, and this evil stone, which pulses 


THE FIRE OF ASSHURBANIPAL 


525 


like the red heart of Satan! We have 
followed you here against our judgment, 
because you have proven yourself a strong 
man, and have said you hold a charm 
against all evil beings. You said you but 
wished to look on this mysterious gem, 
but now we see it is your intention to 
take it for yourself. Do not offend the 
djinn!” 

"Nay, Nureddin, do not offend the 
djinn!” chorused the other Bedouins. 
The shaykh’s own hard-bitten ruffians, 
standing in a compact group somewhat 
apart from the Bedouins, said nothing; 
hardened to crimes and deeds of impiety, 
they were less affected by the supersti- 
tions of the desert men, to whom the 
dread tale of the accursed city had been 
repeated for centuries. Steve, even while 
hating Nureddin with concentrated ven- 
om, realized the magnetic power of the 
man, the innate leadership that had en- 
abled him to overcome thus far the fears 
and traditions of ages. 

"The curse is laid on infidels who in- 
vade the city,” answered Nureddin, "not 
on the Faithful. See, in this chamber 
have we overcome our kajar foes!” 

A white-bearded desert hawk shook 
his head. 

"The curse is more ancient than Mu- 
hammad, and recks not of race or creed. 
Evil men reared this black city in the 
dawn of the Beginnings of Days. They 
oppressed our ancestors of the black 
tents, and warred among themselves; aye, 
the black walls of this foul city were 
stained with blood, and echoed to the 
shouts of unholy revel and the whispers 
of dark intrigues. 

"Thus came the stone to the city: there 
dwelt a magician at the court of Asshur- 
banipal, and the black wisdom of ages 
was not denied to him. To gain honor 
and power for himself, he dared the hor- 
rors of a nameless vast cavern in a dark, 
imtraveled land, and from those fiend- 


haunted depths he brought that blazing 
gem, which is carved of the frozen flames 
of Hell! By reason of his fearful power 
in black magic, he put a spell on the 
demon which guarded the ancient gem, 
and so stole away the stone. And the de- 
mon slept in the cavern unknowing. 

"So this magician — Xuthltan by name 
— dwelt in the court of the sultan Assh- 
urbanipal and did magic and forecast 
events by scanning the lurid deeps of the 
stone, into which no eyes but his could 
look unblinded. And men called the 
stone the Fire of Asshurbanipal, in hon- 
or of the king. 

"But evil came upon the kingdom and 
men cried out that it was the curse of the 
djinn, and the sultan in great fear bade 
Xuthltan take the gem and cast it into 
the cavern from which he had taken it, 
lest worse ill befall them. 

"Yet it was not the magician’s will to 
give up the gem wherein he read strange 
secrets of pre- Adamite days, and he fled 
to the rebel city of Kara-Shehr, where 
soon civil war broke out and men strove 
with one another to possess the gem. 
Then the king who ruled the city, covet- 
ing the stone, seized the magician and 
put him to death by torture, and in this 
very room he watched him die; with the 
gem in his hand the king sat upon the 
throne — even as he has sat throughout 
the centuries — even as now he sits!” 

The Arab’s finger stabbed at the mold- 
ering bones on the marble throne, and 
the wild desert men blenched; even Nu- 
reddin’s own scoundrels recoiled, catch- 
ing their breath, but the shaykh showed 
no sign of perturbation. 

"As Xuthltan died,” continued the old 
Bedouin, "he cursed the stone whose 
magic had not saved him, and he shrieked 
aloud the fearful words which undid the 
spell he had put upon the demon in the 
cavern, and set the monster free. And 
crying out on the forgotten gods, Cthul- 


526 


WEIRD TALES 


hu and Koth and Yog-Sothoth, and all 
the pre-Adamite Dwellers in the black 
cities under the sea and the caverns of 
the earth, he called upon them to take 
back that which was theirs, and with his 
dying breath pronounced doom on the 
false king, and that doom was that the 
king should sit on his throne holding in 
his hand the Fire of Asshurbanipal until 
the thunder of Judgment Day. 

"Thereat the great stone cried out as a 
live thing cries, and the king and his 
soldiers saw a black cloud spinning up 
from the floor, and out of the cloud blew 
a fetid wind, and out of the wind came 
a grisly shape which stretched forth fear- 
some paws and laid them on the king, 
who shriveled and died at their touch. 
And the soldiers fled screaming, and all 
the people of the city ran forth wailing 
into the desert, where they perished or 
gained through the wastes to the far oasis 
towns. Kara-Shehr lay silent and de- 
serted, the haunt of the lizard and the 
jackal. And when some of the desert- 
people ventured into the city they found 
the king dead on his throne, clutching the 
blazing gem, but they dared not lay hand 
upon it, for they knew the demon lurked 
near to guard it through all the ages — as 
he lurks near even as we stand here.” 

The warriors shuddered involuntarily 
and glanced about, and Nureddin said, 
"Why did he not come forth when the 
Franks entered the chamber? Is he deaf, 
that the sound of the combat has not 
awakened him?” 

"We have not touched the gem,” an- 
swered the old Bedouin, "nor had the 
Franks molested it. Men have looked on 
it and lived; but no mortal may touch it 
and survive.” 

N ureddin started to speak, gazed at 
the stubborn, uneasy faces and real- 
ized the futility of argument. His atti- 
tude changed abruptly. 


"I am master here,” he snapped, drop- 
ping a hand to his holster. "I have not 
sweat and bled for this gem to be balked 
at the last by groundless fears! Stand 
back, all! Let any man cross me at the 
peril of his head!” 

He faced them, his eyes blazing, and 
they fell back, cowed by the force of his 
ruthless personality. He strode boldly up 
the marble steps, and the Arabs caught 
their breath, recoiling toward the door; 
Yar Ali, conscious at last, groaned dis- 
mally. God! thought Steve, what a bar- 
baric scene! — bound captives on the dust- 
heaped floor, wild warriors clustered 
about, gripping their weapons, the raw 
acrid scent of blood and burnt powder 
still fouling the air, corpses strewn in a 
horrid welter of blood, brains and en- 
trails — and on the dais, the hawk-faced 
shaykh, oblivious to all except the evil 
crimson glow in the skeleton fingers that 
rested on the marble throne. 

A tense silence gripped all as Nured- 
din stretched forth his hand slowly, as 
if hypnotized by the throbbing crimson 
light. And in Steve’s subconsciousness 
there shuddered a dim echo, as of some- 
thing vast and loathsome waking sud- 
denly from an age-long slumber. The 
American’s eyes moved instinctively to- 
ward the grim cyclopean walls. 'The 
jewel’s glow had altered strangely; it 
burned a deeper, darker red, angry and 
menacing. 

"Heart of all evil,” murmured the 
shaykh, "how many princes died for thee 
in the Beginnings of Happenings? Sure- 
ly the blood of kings throbs in thee. The 
sultans and the princesses and the gen- 
erals who wore thee, they are dust and 
are forgotten, but thou blazest with ma- 
jesty undimmed, fire of the world ” 

Nureddin seized the stone. A shuddery 
wail broke from the Arabs, cut through 
by a sharp inhuman cry. To Steve it 
seemed, horribly, that the great jewel 


THE FIRE OF ASSHURBANIPAL 


527j 


had cried out like a living thing! The 
stone slipped from the shaykh’s hand. 
Nureddin might have dropped it; to 
Steve it looked as though it leaped con- 
vulsively, as a live thing might leap. It 
rolled from the dais, bounding from step 
to step, with Nureddin springing after 
it, cursing as his clutching hand missed 
it. It struck the floor, veered sharply, 
and despite the deep dust, rolled like a 
revolving ball of fire toward the back 
wall. Nureddin was close upon it — it 
struck the wall — the shayldi’s hand 
reached for it. 

A scream of mortal fear ripped the tense 
silence. Without warning the solid wall 
had opened. Out of the black wall that 
gaped there, a tentacle shot and gripped 
the shaykh’s body as a python girdles its 
victim, and jerked him headlong into 
the darkness. And then the wall showed 
blank and solid once more; only from 
within sounded a hideous, high-pitched, 
muffled screaming that chilled the blood 
of the listeners. Howling wordlessly, the 
Arabs stampeded, jammed in a battling, 
screeching mass in the doorway, tore 
through and raced madly down the wide 
stairs. 

Steve and Yar Ali, lying helplessly, 
heard the frenzied clamor of their flight 
fade away into the distance, and gazed 
in dumb horror at the grim wall. The 
shrieks had faded into a more horrific 
silence. Holding their breath, they heard 
suddenly a sound that froze the blood in 
their veins — the soft sliding of metal or 
stone in a groove. At the same time the 
hidden door began to open, and Steve 
caught a glimmer in the blackness that 
might have been the glitter of monstrous 
eyes. He closed his own eyes; he dared 
not look upon whatever horror slunk 
from that hideous black well. He knew 
that there are strains the human brain 
cannot stand, and every primitive in- 
stinct in his soul cried out to him that 


this thing was nightmare and lunacy. He 
sensed that Yar Ali likewise closed his 
eyes, and the two lay like dead men. 

C LARNEY heard no sound, but he 
sensed the presence of a horrific evil 
too grisly for human comprehension — of 
an Invader from Outer Gulfs and far 
black reaches of cosmic being. A deadly 
cold pervaded the chamber, and Steve 
felt the glare of inhuman eyes sear 
through his closed lids and freeze his 
consciousness. If he looked, if he opened 
his eyes, he knew stark black madness 
would be his instant lot. 

He felt a soul-shakingly foul breath 
against his face and knew that the mon- 
ster was bending close above him, but 
he lay like a man frozen in a nightmare. 
He clung to one thought: neither he nor 
Yar Ali had touched the jewel this hor- 
ror guarded. 

Then he no longer smelled the foul 
odor, the coldness in the air grew appre- 
ciably less, and he heard again the secret 
door slide in its groove. The fiend was 
returning to its hiding-place. Not all the 
legions of Hell could have prevented 
Steve’s eyes from opening a trifle. He 
had only a glimpse as the hidden door 
slid to — and that one glimpse was 
enough to drive all consciousness from 
his brain. Steve Clarney, iron-nerved ad- 
venturer, fainted for the only time in his 
checkered life. 

How long he lay there Steve never 
knew, but it could not have been long, 
for he was roused by Yar Ali’s whisper, 
"Lie still, sahib, a little shifting of my 
body and I can reach thy cords with my 
teeth.” 

Steve felt the Afghan’s powerful teeth 
at work on his bonds, and as he lay with 
his face jammed into the thick dust, and 
his wounded shoulder began to throb 
agonizingly — he had forgotten it until 
now — ^he began to gather the wandering 


528 


WEIRD TALES 


threads of his consciousness, and it all 
came back to him. How much, he won- 
dered dazedly, had been the nightmares 
of delirium, born from suffering and the 
thirst that caked his throat? The fight 
with the Arabs had been real — the bonds 
and the wounds showed that — but the 
grisly doom of the shaykh — ^the thing 
that had crept out of the black entrance 
in the wall — surely that had been a fig- 
ment of delirium. Nureddin had fallen 
into a well or pit of some sort — Steve 
felt his hands were free and he rose to a 
sitting posture, fumbling for a pocket- 
knife the Arabs had overlooked. He did 
not look up or about the chamber as he 
slashed the cords that bound his ankles, 
and then freed Yar Ali, working awk- 
wardly because his left arm was stiff and 
useless. 

"Where are the Bedouins?” he asked, 
as the Afghan rose, lifting him to his feet. 

"Allah, sahib,” whispered Yar Ali, 
"are you mad? Have you forgotten? Let 
us go quickly before the djinn returns!” 

"It was a nightmare,” muttered Steve. 
"Look — the jewel is back on the 

throne ” His voice died out. Again 

that red glow throbbed about the ancient 
throne, reflecting from the moldering 
skull; again in the outstretched finger- 
bones pulsed the Fire of Asshurbani- 
pal. But at the foot of the throne lay 
another object that had not been there 
before — the severed head of Nureddin 
cl Mekru stared sightlessly up at the gray 
light filtering through the stone ceiling. 
The bloodless lips were drawn back from 
the teeth in a ghastly grin, the staring 
eyes mirrored an intolerable horror. In 
the thick dust of the floor three spoors 
showed — one of the shaykh’s where he 
had followed the red jewel as it rolled 
to the wall, and above it two other sets 
of tracks, coming to the throne and re- 
turning to the wall — vast, shapeless 


tracks, as of splayed feet, taloned and gi- 
gantic, neither human nor animal. 

"My God!” choked Steve. "It was 
true — and the Thing — the Thing I 
saw ” 

S TEVE remembered the flight from that 
chamber as a rushing nightmare, in 
which he and his companion hurtled 
headlong down an endless stair that was 
a gray well of fear, raced blindly through 
dusty silent chambers, past the glowering 
idol in the mighty hall and into the blaz- 
ing light of the desert sun, where they 
fell slavering, fighting for breath. 

Again Steve was roused by the Afridi’s 
voice; "Sahib, sahib, in the Name of 
Allah the Compassionate, our luck has 
turned!” 

Steve looked at his companion as a 
man might look in a trance. The big 
Afghan’s garments were in tatters, and 
blood-soaked. He was stained with dust 
and caked with blood, and his voice was 
a croak. But his eyes were alight with 
hope and he pointed with a trembling 
finger. 

"In the shade of yon ruined wall!” he 
croaked, striving to moisten his black- 
ened lips. "Allah il allah! The horses of 
the men we killed! With canteens and 
food-pouches at the saddle-horns! Those 
dogs fled without halting for the steeds 
of their comrades!” 

New life surged up into Steve’s bosom 
and he rose, staggering. 

"Out of here,” he mumbled. "Out of 
here, quick!” 

Like dying men they stumbled to the 
horses, tore them loose and climbed fum- 
blingly into the saddles. 

"We’ll lead the spare mounts,” croaked 
Steve, and Yar Ali nodded emphatic 
agreement. 

"Belike we shall need them ere we 
sight the coast.” 

Though their tortured nerves screamed 

W. T.— 1 


THE FIRE OF ASSHURBANIPAL 


529 


for the water that swung in canteens at 
the saddle-horns, they turned the mounts 
aside and, swaying in the saddle, rode 
like flying corpses down the long sandy 
street of Kara-Shehr, between the ruined 
palaces and the crumbling columns, 
crossed the fallen wall and swept out into 
the desert. Not once did either glance 
back toward that black pile of ancient 
horror, nor did either speak until the 
ruins faded into the hazy distance. Then 
and only then did they draw rein and 
ease their thirst. 

"Allah H dlahf" said Yar Ali piously. 
"Those dogs have beaten me until it is 
as though every bone in ray body were 
broken. Dismount, I beg thee, sahib, and 
let me probe for that accursed bullet, and 
dress thy shcniider to the best of my mea- 
ger ability.” 

While this was going on, Yar Ali 
spoke, avoiding his friend’s eye, "You 
said, sahib, you said something about — 
about seeing? What saw ye, in Allah’s 
name?” 

A strong shudder shook the Ameri- 
can’s steely frame. 

"You didn’t look when- — when the — > 
the Thing put back the jewel in the skel- 
eton’s hand and left Nureddin’s head on 
the dais?” 

"By Allah, not I!” Swore Yar Ali. 
"'My eyes were as closed as if they had 
been welded together by the /nolten irons 
of Satan!” 

Steve made no reply until the comrades 


had once more swung into the saddle and 
started on their long trek for the boast, 
which, with spare horses, food, water and 
weapons, they had a good chance to 
readi. 

'T looked,” the American said som- 
berly. "I wish I bad not; I know I’ll 
dream about it for the rest of my life. I 
had only a glance; I couldnT descAe it 
as a man desaibes an earthly thing. God 
help me, it wasn’t earthly or sane dfiier, 
Mankind isn’t the firM owner of the 
earth; there were Beings here before his 
coming — and now, survivals of hideously 
ancient epochs. Maybe spheres of alien 
dimensions press unseen on this iiKiterial 
universe today. Sorcerers have called up 
sleeping devils before now and eonttnlled 
them with magic. It is not unreasooafele 
to suppose an Assyrian magician aould 
invoke an elemental demon out of die 
earth to avenge him and guard som^S^ag 
that must have come out of Heil in the 
first place. 

"I’ll try to tell you what I glm^ed; 
then we’ll never speak of it again. It 
was gigantic and black and ^adowy; k 
was a hulking monstrosity that walked 
upright like a man, but it was Iflte a toad, 
too, and it was winged and tentacled. I 
saw only its back; if I’d seen the front ef 
it — its face — I'd have undoubtedly lost 
my mind. The old Arab was right; God 
help us, it was the monster that Xodfitan 
called up out of the dark blind osveras 
of the earth to guard the Fire of A«^r- 
banipal!” 



S7.T,— 2 



ut of the Sun 


By GRANVILLE S. HOSS 

Is there life in the swirling heat of the sun? This is the story 
of a scientist who determined to find out 


I PROPOSE to make public the most 
remaHcable series of letters it has 
ever been my fortune to peruse. I 
can hardly expect them to be received 
without skepticism and in some quarters 
positive unbelief and even ridicule. It 
would be strange indeed should they 
meet with any other reception, as the 
incidents dealt with are so astounding 
and bizarre that I doubt even the boldest 
of our writers of fiction would have the 
temerity to use them in a tale of the 
imagination. 

In spite of what I have just said, I 
ask diat the letters be read with full 
belief, or at least with an open mind. 
I vouch for the truth of every word they 
contain, I knew the writer well and inti- 
mately for more than thirty years. He 
was never a man to juggle the truth and 
could have had no motive for such a 
course. And finally I journeyed to the 
scene of the tragedy and viewed the 
bodies. Thus I was able personally to 
verify many of the facts given in the 
letters. 

I have arranged the letters according 
to date and added, as a sort of post 
scriptum, an extract from the weekly 
paper published at Mountain Top, Wyo- 
ming, where the events occurred. But 
first I had better state how the letters 
came to be written. 

Christmas Eve, 1928, in Chicago was 
bitter cold. The city lay frozen under a 
heavy covering of snow and ice. This 
will explain why Baxter Bliss and I were 
loth to leave the genial warmth of the 
Midiigan Boulevard restaurant where we 

330 


had finished a late supper and sat idly 
over our coffee and cigars, gazing at the 
hurrying stream of late Christmas shop- 
pers and the heavy traffic of the wide 
boulevard. Our silence was suddenly 
ended by Bliss noisily exhaling a great 
cloud of smoke and exclaiming, "I 
wonder if all the planets and stars suffer 
the extreme climatic changes and differ- 
ences we find here." 

"I suppose they do,” I replied without 
much interest, "unless some are supplied 
with several suns to maintain an even 
temperature over their whole surface.” 

"That might be," he agreed. "Some 
very likely enjoy a very hot climate, 
hotter than anything we know here, while 
others are perpetually cold. It would be 
interesting to note the variations of life 
on those distant balls, caused by the 
differing climatic and atmospheric con- 
ditions.” 

"But they are not all inhabited,” I 
objected. "We at least know that some 
of them can not support life.” 

"We know nothing of the sort,” 
Bliss retorted. "Had you never seen any 
of the myriad forms of life inhabiting 
our oceans, streams and puddles, you 
would say, basing your judgment on 
what is necessary to sustain your own 
life, that nothing could live under water, 
would you not?” 

"I suppose so,” I admittted. 

"And you would be wrong, for life 
is found not only in the frozen Arctic 
seas, but even in the boiling springs of 
the West. I maintain that it is not only 
possible, but extremely probable, that the 


OUT OF THE SUN 


>31 


mocHi and all the rest of the planets are 
teeming with life.” 

"Well,” I laughed, "have it your own 
way. But I know of one place where 
there is surely no life. The sun.” 

"Don’t be too sure of that,” he re- 
torted. "Lately I have considered it alto- 
gether probable that there is life on the 
sun.” 

"Nonsense!” I exclaimed. "The 
Qiristmas spirit or what goes with it 
seems to have gone to your head and 
disturbed your imagination.” 

"Oh, laugh on!” he cried half angrily. 


"Did you ever hear of a photon? No, of 
course not. Bah! What is the use of argu- 
ment? Come, it grows late and I must 
go.” 

By the time we struggled into our 
heavy wraps and stepped out into the 
cold December night. Bliss had regained 
his usual good temper. We parted at 
State and Madison Streets with a hearty 
handshake and Merry Christmas. His 
last words as he turned to board a 
north-bound bus were, "I’ll prove my 
contention some day.” 

I never saw him again alive. He dis- 



332 


WEIRD TALES 


appeared from Chicago and it was three 
years before I heard from him or knew 
where he had gone. In October, 1931, 
a letter dated from Mountain Top, Wyo- 
ming, explained his absence and stay in 
that distant place. This letter and those 
which followed can now speak for them- 
selves, or rather for my friend who is 
gone. Let him tell his story in his own 
words. 

Mountain Top, Wyoming, 
October 14, 1931. 

Y DEAR G 

Who would ever have thought 
of me living contented in an out-of-the- 
way place like this? A few years ago I 
would have laughed to scorn the mere 
suggestion of sudi an existence. But 
here I am. 

A short time after last seeing you, I 
was notified by an attorney here that 
I had inherited, through the death of a 
distant relative, a house and small tract 
of ground at this place. I did not need 
the property and did not want it, but 
having nothing better to do at the time, 
decided to go out and have a look at it. 
I liked all I found so well that I decided 
to stay, for a time at least. So I re- 
furnished the house, made some needed 
repairs and alteraticms and am likely to 
be ri^t here for the rest of my days. 

Do not get the idea that this place is 
perched on a high mountain top. The 
town is built on a hill or sort of plateau, 
but there are high mountains all around 
it. My place is a mile from town, over- 
looking the hillside sloping to the valley 
below and commanding an unobstructed 
view of the mountains in the near dis- 
tance. An altogether delightful place. 

When you write, remember I have 
been out of touch with everything hap- 
pening in my old home. The only paper 
I ever see is the weekly published here. 

Overlook and pardon my long silence.. 


Prove your good nature by letting me 
have a prompt reply with a resume of all 
that has tak^ place there in our s^^ere 
since I left 

As ever yours, 

BlbS. 

November 21, 1931. 

y DEAR G 

Thanks for your long and inter- 
esting letter. Am happy to hear of 
Mary’s good fortune. She deserves it. 
Give her my affectionate regard and best 
wishes. It is too bad about Charley. 
Wish I could be of some use to him. 

Oh, by the way, do you remember 
our last conversation, on Christmas Eve 
1928? I have thought of it many times 
since and am more than ever convinced 
of the possibility of life existing on the 
sun, and am going to prove that it does. 
In my next letter I may be able to tell 
you something definite of my plans. 
They are still quite hazy, but taking form. 
I can see now it will be a big under- 
taking and a costly one. 

Write me often. Your letters seem 
like a voice from another world. 

As ever yours. 

Bliss. 

December 24, 1931. 

BAR o 

Glad to have your letter and the 
information it contains. You give me 
surprizing intelligence of John Fortune. 
Who would have dreamed of him doing 
such a wild thing? 

This is the third anniversary of our 
last meeting in Chicago and my plans 
for ascertaining if life exists on the sun 
are progressing. I have placed an order 
for a portion of my equipment with a 
distant steel foundry and when ffiat part 
is received, will immediately engage 
workmen to set it up and construct fjie 
remainder of what I need. 





OUT OP THE SUN 


533 


To prove the edstence of life on the 
sun does not seem to me such an im- 
possiHe task as on first thought it would 
appear. Science has found that what wc 
call sunlight is in reality small particles 
of the mass of that body, millions of tons 
of which are thrown off into space every 
second. The particles have been named 
photons. 

Now why is it not likely, that among 
the countless billions of infinitesimal 
parts of the sun’s mass reaching the 
earth each day there is dormant life? 
And why can it not be caught under such 
conditions that it will incubate? As I see 
it, the great difiiculty will be to produce 
and maintain sufficient heat for the pur- 
pose. At any rate, this is my problem 
and the manner in which I am setting 
about to solve it. What think you of my 
chance of success? 

As ever, 

Bliss. 

March 2, 1932. 

EAR G 

Your last received a month ago 
and of course you would throw cold 
water. But just wait. Maybe time will 
show I am not quite so mad as you seem 
to think. 

I am about ready for the test. I have 
had constructed a steel room with walls. 
Ceiling and floor four feet thick. Around 
this is six feet of solid concrete work. 
An opening is left in the top to catch 
the sunlight and of course there is a door 
in one side whidi can be closed. As I 
told you before, I think my big problem 
will be heat, but feel that I have mastered 
it. I will soon know, as all will be com- 
pleted within the next two weeks. 

Evai though you do not believe in 
what I am attempting, you can at least 
wish me luck. 

As ever, 

Bliss. 


April 3, 1932. 

BAR G 

The experiment is progressing. 
I have succeeded in producing an in- 
credible heat. But is it enough? There is 
no sign of life in the steel room, which 
is a solid mass of fire. The skies have 
been clear, permitting a constant flow of 
sunlight into the fiery room. I could not 
have asked for more ideal conditions. 

Your last letter was full of interest, 
but I am so filled with the great experi- 
ment I can not take time to comment on 
what you tell me. 

As ever, 

Buss. 

June 15, 1932. 

Y DEAR G 

Just a line to let you know I 
think I have succeeded. There is certainly 
something in the steel room which was 
not there when the fire was started. 
There are half a dozen lumps on the 
floor, but they are too small and un- 
formed for me to distinguish through 
the flames what they are. But they move 
about. Do you get that? They move and 
diange position. 

More next time. 

As ever. 

Bliss. 

August 1, 1932. 

EAR G 

For the past six weeks I have 
suffered alternate fits of hope and despair, 
but now I know. There is life in the 
fiery room; six creatures, one of which 
has grown much faster than the others 
and is developing arms and legs and a 
head, though all members are too rudi- 
mentary for me to guess what the crea- 
ture will be like if it lives and continues 
to grow. Another has a long neck and 
head and the body is elongating from its 
hitherto spherical shape. 'The rest re- 






534 


iWEIRD TALES 


semble nothing but lumps continually 
moving about. 

Congratulate me, my deaf friend, for 
I have succeeded. 

The experiment has been extravagantly 
costly, but I have plenty and can think 
of no better way to spend it. 

Don’t think because I do not answer 
your letters in formal manner and with 
any great regularity, that I am not glad 
to have them. I appreciate every one and 
wish you would write oftener. 

As ever. 

Bliss. 

September 4, 1932. 

y DEAR G 

Bad fortune. Only one of my 
sun aeatures is left. The rest have died 
and been reduced to nothing by the 
fir«. 

I hesitate to say so, but the survivor 
seems to be taking on a definite human 
form. It is about the size of the penny 
dolls children used to b\iy in our young 
days. It grows stronger and moves 
about over greater areas of the room 
each week. I have high hopes that it 
will not share the fate of the others, 
but will grow to maturity. 'Think what 
it will mean to scientific knowledge. 
How the savants will gasp when I invite 
them to Mountain Top to view an in- 
habitant of the sun! 

Yes, you might send me the book 
you mention, though I will not promise 
to read it very soon, as my own days 
are more exciting right now than any 
fiction which can be imagined by the 
romanticists. 

Thanks, and believe me, I appreciate 
your thoughtfulness. 

As ever. 

Buss. 


December 1 , 19^. 

EAR G 

Let me hasten to assure joa ri»at 
I am well and that your several lectidcs 
during the past three months have 
reached me in due course. My neglect in 
answering is due to my having become 
a man with only one interest in life. 

The sun creature has grown into a 
fully developed woman about eigh^oai 
inches high. She has flaming red is 
slim and perfectly proportioned widi a 
fairy-like beauty which grows more *adi- 
ant with her increasing stature. Such per- 
fect beauty was never before seen in this 
world. 

I feel rather queer and sick wteli I 
look at her living and moving about 
comfortably in that fiery inferno. I have 
to remind myself she is in her aahiral 
element and just as much at home as I 
am in the outer air. 

Of course I am unable to give her 
food, as anything I could offer her would 
be consumed by the flames in a few 
seconds. She does not seem to want for 
anything, but appears perfectly content 
and happy reclining upon the white-hot 
steel floor in her room of fire. 

Do not be alarmed at my failuite to 
write with any regularity. ''S^y can jou 
not come out here and see for youiself 
the wonder I have been writing of? 

As ever, 

Bliss. 

March 8, 1933. 

EAR G 

Instead of sifting in Qiicago and 
writing letters full of questions and ex- 
cuses, why don’t you come on out here 
and observe at fimt hand what I can 
make you only dimly comprehend by 
writing? 

'The Sun Maiden has now attained a 
height of about three feet. Her beauty 





OUT OF THE SUN 


335 


increases each day. She is of a superlative 
loveliness impossible to portray ade- 
quately in words. Hers is an unearthly 
beauty such as we have all tried to im- 
agine in the angels. 

When I open the door of her fiery 
home, she smiles and holds out her hand 
in greeting, but needless to say, I do not 
attempt to grasp it. At first she resented 
my aloofness. Her eyes would flash 
angrily and her body glow like molten 
gold. Her anger was always of short 
duration and she would soon be smiling 
again, her body its normal pink color. 

How has she managed to thrive and 
grow without food in that fiery furnace? 
I think I have found the answer. She 
draws sustenance from the sunlight. 
While the sunlight pours into her room, 
she is bright and active, tripping about 
and dancing much in the manner of a 
ballet girl. After sunset she droops, and 
cm dark days lies on the floor with her 
head pillowed on her arm like one com- 
pletely weary and worn out. Then when 
tfie stm breaks through the clouds what 
a change takes place! She sits up and 
smiles and is soon on her feet capering 
about the room. 

As ever. 

Bliss. 

May 15, 1933. 

EAR <; 

As usual, more excuses in your 
last letter. Well, if you do not think the 
Sun Maiden is worth the paltry expense 
and time you would lose from your 
business, then stay where you are. 

She is now all of four feet tall and I 
am sure fully grown. I did not think it 
possible, but she has become more and 
more beautiful with each passing day. I 
have not words to convey to you the 
haunting, ethereal quality of her beauty. 
It follows me waking or sleq>ing. 

I spent most of yesterday examining 


the apparatus which furnishes heat for 
her room. I shiver when I think of the 
possibility of it failing or getting out of 
order. A disaster of that sort would 
mean her death. And the death of the 
Sun Maiden would be the end for me. 
Yes, I mean it. Separated as we are by 
a raging fire which she can not leave and 
I can not enter, she has come to mean 
more to me than all the rest of the world. 
If you could see her I think you could 
understand. 

The sun, peopled with beings like her, 
must be a lovely place. I wish she could 
speak and tell me of conditions there. 
But what nonsense! She can have no 
more knowledge of her home there than 
I have, for she was born right here on 
earth in the fiery room she now occupies. 
As ever. 

Bliss. 

July 1, 1933. 

Y DEAR G 

I think the Sun Maiden’s method 
of communication is purely mental. At 
least, she has never made a sound, and 
two weeks ago as I was observing her 
through the doorway, she- stood perfectly 
stationary and gazed hard into my eyes 
as though attempting to convey a mes- 
sage, but it would not register on my 
earthly brain. She seemed to realize this, 
for her efforts ceased, and smiling sadly 
she shook her head several times as 
though to imply that it was of no use. 

The possibility of my fires failing 
worries me incessantly. Should this hap- 
pen, the Sun Maiden would die as pain- 
ful a death as you or I, should we be 
consumed by fire. I had proof of this 
just yesterday. When I approached the 
doorway of her dwelling, she stepped 
forward smiling with outstretched hands 
inviting me to enter, and as I came 
nearer, darted forward as if to seize and 
drag me inside. As one of her hands was 




536 


WEIRD TALES 


thrust outside the flames into the short 
passage leading from her door to the 
outer air, she stopped abruptly with an 
expression of intense pain on her face 
as she withdrew her hand into the 
flames again. She examined her hand 
and gazed at me so reproachfully that I 
caught myself in the very act of rushing 
in to console her. 

As ever. 

Bliss. 

July 17, 1933. 

EAR G 

I am in despair. How am I to 
guard against a breakdown in my heat- 
ing apparatus? Only yesterday I found a 
defect just in time to repair it and avert 
disaster. Such a calamity will result in 
the death of my poor Sun Maiden. And 
bow can I go on living without her? I 
just will not do it. I suppose you will at 
once decide I am crazy, but you will be 
wrong. How can I expect you to under- 
stand my feelings? You have not seen 
her as I have, grow and develop from a 
formless lump into the radiant and 
happy creature she now is. 

I go carefully over every part of my 
heating machinery a dozen times during 
the day and night. The rest of my time, 
all I can spare from sleep, is spent in 
contemplation of the Sun Maiden. She 
always greets me with a smile, holding 
out her pretty little hands in welcome. 
She then dances gleefully about her room, 
while the billowing flames toss her long 
hair about like a strong wind. A sight 
so entrancing was never before seen by 
mortal man. I jusl can not lose her. I 
can not. 

Yours, 

Bliss. 


November 15, 1933. 
ear <3 

I am a wreck. You would oot 
recognize me. Through incessant wsdrh- 
ing I have managed to keep the fires 
going in the Sun Maiden’s room with- 
out a break. But now a new danger 
threatens her. The intense and un- 
broken heat I have been compelled to 
maintain in her room has caused the 
steel walls to crumble in spots, and these 
rotten areas are accumulating and grow- 
ing in size each week. The six-f<Sot 
Ihidcness of concrete covering the steel 
room shows a number of cracks. Hiese 
disasters can only mean that the ead is 
not far off. Oh, why did I bring flhis 
radiant aeature to life only to have her 
meet a miserable death in a few mootfas? 
But no, I will not despair. I caa not 
despair. I will save her. 

Yours, 

Bliss. 

Extract from the Mountain Top Herald 
of December 15, 1933: 

SHOCKING TRAGEDY DlSCOVMJ® 
LAST MONDAY 

The dead bodies of Barton Bliss and a nude 
woman were found in the grounds of hfa home 
West of town last Monday morning, hfc. BUss 
had been terribly burned. There were no Marks 
of any kind on the body of the woman, leaving 
the cause of her death a complete mystery. 

The bodies were discovered by Asa ©lies, 
who stopped at the hcnise for water while ©n his 
way to Mountain Top. They were lying just 
outside a great square structure of cement and 
steel. The interior of the building showed signs 
of an intense hear having been maintained there 
over a long period but for what purpose is un- 
known. 

On making his gruesome discCivery, Mr. Giles 
hurried on to town, where he notified Joe 
Mills, our chief of poEfe, who called the coronet 
and then hurried to the Bliss place. 

Dr. Baymone at Oflce pronounced the terrible 
burns to be the cause of the death of Mr. Bliss 
but would not ajmmi't himself irj the case of the 
woman. While hazarding no opinion as to the 
cause of her death or when It occurred. Be be- 




OUT OF THE SUN 


337 


lieves her body mast have undergone some sort 
of mummifying process. Pink in color, her flesh 
was soft but solid, reacting to the touch not 
unlike rubber. Her hair, of a flaming red color, 
was of a different texture from any found on a 
human head. The body, perfect in its symmetry 
and beauty and showing not a mark of any sort, 
■weighed only one and on&half pounds. Dr. Bay- 
more states emphatically that he knows of no 
method of embalming which could produce these 
conditions and ftiankly admits he is completely 
puzzled. 


Mr. Bliss was more or 1^ oS a recluse, having 
no intimate friends here and very few ac^iaint- 
ances, which will explain why the tragedy was 
not discovered for several days after its occur- 
rence. A search of his house disclosed ■very little 
information, as all correspondence and even bills 
and business letters seem to have been destroyed 
by him. One letter was finally unearthed In the 
back of a bureau drawer. This was mots ffiah a 
year old and written by a Mr. G. S, Hall of 
Chicago, who has been notified by w5k and who 
has signified his intention of coming at once. 


V espers 

By EDGAR DANIEL KRAMER 

SlowJy we drcle the prison yard, 

DuII-eyed men whom the world has broken; 

Our bones are weary, the stones are bard; 

There is no laughter, no word is spoken. 

ShuffKng feet and the ghosts of sighing, 

As the guards stare down from the high gray walls; 

The heavens are flames, for the sun is dying. 

And hark, through the stillness a robin calls! 

There comes the stroke of a tyrant bell — 

Dull-eyed men and a robin calling! 

Shuffle of feel to each iron-walled cell, 

Clods of clay on the steel cots falling. 

Smothered curses and bitter weeping. 

But in the shactows a dream has stirred; 

Over my cell floor the rats go creeping. 

But my chiM-like heart is the singing bird. 


Vhe^^ 

c/^aunter of the Dark 


By H, P. LOVECRAFT 


!A powerful story about an old church in Providence, Rhode Island, that waSt 
shunned and feared by all who knew it 


(Dedicated to Robert Bloch) 

I have seen the dark universe yawning 

Where the black planets toll without aim — 
.Where they roll in their horror unheeded, 

Without knowledge or luster or name. 

— Nemesis. 

C AUTIOUS investigators will hesi- 
tate to challenge the common be- 
lief that Robert Blake was killed 
by lightning, or by some profound nerv- 
ous shock derived from an electrical dis- 
charge. It is true that the window he 
faced was unbroken, but nature has shown 
herself capable of many freakish perfor- 
mances. The expression on his face may 
easily have arisen from some obscure mus- 
cular source unrelated to anything he saw, 
while the entries in his diary are clearly 
the result of a fantastic imagination 
aroused by certain local superstitions and 
by certain old matters he had uncovered. 
As for the anomalous conditions at the 
deserted church on Federal Hill — ^the 
shrewd analyst is not slow in attributing 
tfiem to some charlatanry, conscious or 
unconscious, with at least some of which 
Blake was secretly connected. 

For after all, the victim was a writer 
and painter wholly devoted to the field 
of myth, dream, terror, and superstition, 
and avid in his quest for scenes and ef- 
fects of a bizarre, spectral sort. His earlier 
stay in the city — a visit to a strange old 
man as deeply given to occult and for- 
bidden lore as he — had ended amidst 
death and flame, and it must have been 
some morbid instinct which drew him 
bade from his home in Milwaukee. He 
may have known of the old stories despite 
538 


his statements to the contrary in the diary, 
and his death may have nipped in the bud 
some stupendous hoax destined to have a 
literary reflection. 

Among those, however, who have ex- 
amined and correlated all this evidence, 
there remain several who cling to less 
rational and commonplace theories. They 
are indined to take much of Blake’s diary 
at its face value, and point significantly 
to certain facts such as the undoubted 
genuineness of the old church record, 
the verified existence of the disliked and 
unorthodox Starry Wisdom sect prior to 
1877, the recorded disappearance of an 
inquisitive reporter named Edwin M. Lil- 
libridge in 1893, and — above all — the 
look of monstrous, transfiguring fear on 
the face of the young writer when he 
died. It was one of these believers who, 
moved to fanatical extremes, threw into 
the bay the curiously angled stone and its 
strangely adorned metal box found in the 
(fld church steeple — the black window- 
less steeple, and not the tower where 
Blake’s diary said those things originally 
were. Though widely censured both 
officially and unofiicially, this man — a 
reputable physician with a taste for odd 
folklore — averred that he had rid the 
earth of something too dangerous to rest 
upon it. 

Between these two schools of opinion 
the reader must judge for himself. The 
papers have given the tangible details 
from a skeptical angle, leaving for others 
the drawing of the picture as Robert 
Blake saw it — or thought he saw it — or 
pretended to see it. Now, studying the 


THE HAUNTTR OE THE DARK 


339 


diary closely, dispassionately, and at leis- 
ure, let us summarize the dark chain of 
events from the expressed point of view 
of their chief actor. 

Y oung Blake returned to Providence 
in the winter of 1934-5, taking the 
upper floor of a venerable dwelling in a 
grassy court off Qtllege Street — on the 
crest of the great eastward hill near the 
Brown University campus and behind the 
marble John Hay Library. It was a cozy 
and fascinating place, in a little garden 
oasis of village-like antiquity where huge, 
friendly cats sunned themselves atop a 


convenient shed. The square Georgian 
house had a monitor roof, classic doorway 
with fan carving, small-paned windows, 
and all the other earmarks of early Nine- 
teenth Century workmanship. Inside 
were six-paneled doors, wide floor-boards, 
a curving colonial staircase, white Adam- 
period mantels, and a rear set of rooms 
three steps below the general level. 

Blake’s study, a large southwest cham- 
ber, overlooked the front garden oa one 
side, while its west windows — before one 
of which he had his desk — faced off from 
the brow of the hill and commanded a 
splendid view of the lower town’s out- 



340 


WEIRD TALES 


spread roofs and of the mystical sunsets 
that flamed behind them. On the far ho- 
rizon were the open countryside’s purple 
slopes. Against these, some two miles 
away, rose the spectral hump of Federal 
Hill, bristling with huddled roofs and 
steeples whose remote outlines wavered 
mysteriously, taking fantastic forms as the 
smoke of the city swirled up and en- 
meshed them. Blake had a curious sense 
that he was looking upon some unknown, 
ethereal world which might or might not 
vanish in dream if ever he tried to seek 
it out and enter it in person. 

Having sent home for most of his 
books, Blake bought some antique furni- 
ture suitable to his quarters and settled 
down to write and paint — living alone, 
and attending to the simple housework 
himself. His studio was in a north attic 
room, where the panes of the monitor 
roof furnished admirable lighting. Dur- 
ing that first winter he produced five of 
his best-known short stories — The Bur- 
rower Beneath, The Stairs in the Crypt, 
Shaggai, In the Vde of Pnath, and The 
Feaster from the Stars — and painted 
seven canvases; studies of nameless, un- 
human monsters, and profoundly alien, 
non-terrestrial landscapes. 

At sunset he would often sit at his desk 
and gaze dreamily off at the outspread 
west — the dark towers of Memorial Hall 
fust below, the Georgian court-house bel- 
jFry, the lofty pinnacles of the downtown 
section, and that shimmering, spire- 
crowned mound in the distance whose un- 
known streets and labyrinthine gables so 
potently provoked his fancy. From his 
few local acquaintances he learned that 
the far-off slope was a vast Italian quar- 
ter, though most of the houses were rem- 
nants of older Yankee and Irish days. 
Now and then he would train his field- 
glasses on that spectral, unreachable 
world beyond the curling smoke; picking 
out individual roofs and chimneys and 


steeples, and speculating upon the bizarre 
and curious mysteries they might house. 
Even with optical aid Federal Hill seemed 
somehow alien, half fabulous, and linked 
to the unreal, intangible marvels of 
Blake’s own tales and pictures. ’The feel- 
ing would persist long after the hill had 
faded into the violet, lamp-starred twi- 
light, and the court-house floodlights and 
the red Industrial Tmst beacon had blazed 
up to make the night grotesque. 

Of all the distant objects on Federal 
Hill, a certain huge, dark church most 
fascinated Blake. It stood out with espe- 
cial distinctness at certain hours of the 
day, and at sunset the great tower and 
tapering steeple loomed blackly against 
the flaming sky. It seemed to rest on 
especially high ground; for the grimy 
facade, and the obliquely seen north side 
with sloping roof and the tops of great 
pointed windows, rose boldly above the 
tangle of surrounding ridgepoles and 
chimney-pots. Peculiarly grim and au- 
stere, it appeared to be built of stone, 
stained and weathered with the smoke 
and storms of a century and more. The 
style, so far as the glass could show, was 
that earliest experimental form of Gothic 
revival which preceded the stately Upjohn 
period and held over some of the outlines 
and proportions of the Georgian age. 
Perhaps it was reared around 1810 or 
1815. 

As the months passed, Blake watched 
the far-off, forbidding structure with an 
oddly mounting interest. Since the vast 
windows were never lighted, he knew 
that it must be vacant. The longer he 
watched, the more his imagination 
worked, till at length he began to fancy 
curious things. He believed that a vague, 
singular aura of desolation hovered over 
the place, so that even the pigeons and 
swallows shunned its smoky eaves. 
Around other towers and belfries his 
glass would reveal great flocks of birds, 


THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK 


541 


but ha-e they never rested. At least, that 
is what he thought and set down in his 
diary. He pointed the place out to several 
friends, but none of them had even been 
on Federal Hill or possessed the faintest 
notion of what the church was or had 
been. 

I N THE spring a deep restlessness 
gripped Blake. He had begun his long- 
planned novel — based on a supposed sur- 
vival of the witch-cult in Maine— but was 
strangely unable to make progress with it. 
More and more he would sit at his west- 
ward window and gaze at the distant hill 
and the black, frowning steeple shunned 
by the birds. When the delicate leaves 
came out on the garden boughs the world 
was filled with a new beauty, but Blake’s 
restlessness was merely increased. It was 
then that he first thought of crossing the 
city and climbing bodily up that fabulous 
slope into the smoke-wreathed world of 
dream. 

Late in April, just before the eon- 
shadowed Walpurgis time, Blake made 
his first trip into the unknown. Plodding 
tbrough the endless downtown streets and 
the bleak, decayed squares beyond, he 
came finally upon the ascending avenue 
of century-wom steps, sagging Doric 
porches, and blear-paned cupolas which 
he felt must lead up to the long-known, 
unreachable world beyond the mists. 
There were dingy blue-and-white street 
signs which meant nothing to him, and 
presently he noted the strange, dark faces 
of the drifting crowds, and the foreign 
signs over curious shops in brown, decade- 
weathered buildings. Nowhere could he 
find any of the objects he had seen from 
afar; so that once more he half fancied 
that the Federal Hill of that distant view 
was a dream-world never to be trod by 
living human feet. 

Now and then a battered diurch facade 
Of crumbling spire came in sight, but 


never the blackened pile that he sought. 
When he asked a shopkeeper about a 
great stone church the man smiled and 
shook his head, though he spoke English 
freely. As Blake climbed higher, the 
region seemed stranger and stranger, with 
bewildering mazes of brooding brown 
alleys leading eternally off to the south. 
He crossed two or three broad avenues, 
and once thought he glimpsed a familiar 
tower. Again he asked a merchant about 
the massive church of stone, and this time 
he could have sworn that the plea of 
ignorance was feigned. The dark man’s 
face had a look of fear which he tried to 
hide, and Blake saw him make a axrious 
sign with his right hand. 

Then suddenly a black spire stood out 
against the cloudy sky on his left, above 
the tiers of brown roofs lining the tangled 
southerly alleys. Blake knew at once what 
it was, and plunged toward it through the 
squalid, unpaved lanes that climbed from 
the avenue. Twice he lost his way, but 
he somehow dared not ask any of the 
patriarchs or housewives who sat on their 
door-steps, or any of the children who 
shouted and played in the mud of the 
shadowy lanes. 

At last he saw the tower plain against 
the southwest, and a huge stone bulk rose 
darkly at the end of an alley. Presently 
he stood in a wind-swept open square, 
quaintly cobblestoned, with a high bank 
wall on the farther side. This was the 
end of his quest; for upon the wide, iron- 
railed, weed-grown plateau which the 
wall supported — a separate, lesser world 
raised fully six feet above the surround- 
ing streets — there stood a grim, titan bulk 
whose identity, despite Blake’s new per- 
spective, was beyond dispute. 

The vacant church was in a state of 
great decrepitude. Some of the high stone 
buttresses had fallen, and several delicate 
finials lay half lost among the brown, 
neglected weeds and grasses. ’The sooty 


542 


WEIRD TALES 


Gothic •windows were largely unbroken, 
though many of the stone mullions were 
missing. Blake wondered how the ob- 
scurely painted panes could have survived 
so well, in view of the known habits of 
small boys the world over. The massive 
doors were intact and tightly closed. 
Around the top of the bank wall, fully 
enclosing the grounds, was a rusty iron 
fence whose gate — ‘at the head of a flight 
of steps from the square — ^was visibly 
padlodced. The path from the gate to 
the building was completely overgrown. 
Desolation and decay hung like a pall 
above the place, and in the birdless eaves 
and black, ivyless walls Blake felt a touch 
of the dimly sinister beyond his power to 
define, 

T here were very few people in the 
square, but Blake saw a policeman 
at the northerly end and approached him 
with questions about the church. He was 
a great wholesome Irishman, and it 
seemed odd that he would do little more 
than make the sign of the cross and 
mutter that people never spoke of that 
building. When Blake pressed him he 
said very hurriedly that the Italian priests 
warned everybody against it, vowing that 
a monstrous evil had once dwelt there 
and left its mark. He himself had heard 
dark whispers of it from his father, who 
recalled certain sounds and rumors from 
his boyhood. 

There had been a bad sect there In the 
ould days — an outlaw sect that called up 
awful things from some unknown gulf of 
night. It had tdcen a gcx)d priest to exor- 
cise what had come, though there did be 
those who said that merely the light could 
do it. If Father O’Malley were alive there 
would be many the thing he could tell. 
But now there was nothing to do but let 
it alone. It hurt ncrfx>dy now, and those 
that owned it were dead or far away. 
They had run away like rats after the 


threatening talk In ’77, when people be- 
gan to mind the way folks vanished now 
and then in the neighborhood. Some day 
the city would step in and take the prop- 
erty for laci: of heirs, but little good 
would come of annybod/s touching it 
Better it be left alone for the years to 
topple, lest things be stirred that ought to 
rest for ever in their black abyss. 

After the policeman had gone Blake 
stood staring at the sullen steepled pile. 
It excited him to find that the stm^re 
seemed as sinister to odiers as to him, and 
he wondered what grain of truth ndght 
lie behind the old tales the bluecoat had 
repeated. Probably they were mere leg- 
ends evoked by the evil look of the place, 
but even so, they were like a strange 
coming to life of one of his own stories. 

The afternoon sun came out from be- 
hind dispersing clouds, but seemed un- 
able to light up the stained, sooty walls 
of the old temple that towered on its high 
plateau. It was odd that the green of 
spring had not touched the brown, with- 
ered gro-wths in the raised, iron-fenced 
yard. Blake found himself edging nearer 
the raised area and examining the bank 
wall and rusted fence for possible ave- 
nues of ingress. There was a terrible lure 
about the blackened fane which was not 
to be resisted. The fence bad no opening 
near the steps, but around on the north 
side were some missing bars. He could 
go up the steps and walk around on the 
narrow coping outside the fence till he 
came to the gap. If the people feared the 
place so wildly, he would encounter no 
interference. 

He was on the embankmoat and almost 
inside the fence before anyone noticed 
him. Then, looking down, he saw the 
few people in the square edging away 
and mdcing the same sign with their 
right hands that the shopkeeper in the 
avenue had made, ^veral windows were 
slammed down, and a fat woman darted 


'IHB HAUNTER OF THE DARK 


543 


lato tilie street and pulled some small 
children inside a rickety, unpainted house. 
The gap in the fence was very easy to 
pass through, and before long Blake 
found himself wading amidst the rotting, 
tangled growths of the deserted yard. 
Here and there the worn stump of a head- 
stone told him that there had once been 
burials in this field; but that, he saw, 
must have been very long ago. The sheer 
bulk of the church was oppressive now 
that he was close to it, but he conquered 
his mood and approached to try the three 
great doors in the facade. All were se- 
curely locked, so he began a circuit of the 
C)rclc^jean building in quest of some mi- 
nor and more penetrable opening. Even 
then he could not be sure that he wished 
to enter that haunt of desertion and shad- 
ow, yet the pull of its strangeness dragged 
him on automatically. 

A yawning and unprotected cellar 
window in the rear furnished the needed 
aperture. Peering in, Blake saw a sub- 
terrene gulf of cobwebs and dust faintly 
litten the western sun’s filtered rays. 
Debris, old barrels, and ruined boxes and 
furniture of numerous sorts met his eye, 
though over everything lay a shroud of 
dust Asdiich softened all sharp outlines. 
The rusted remains of a hot-air furnace 
showed that the building had been used 
and kept in shape as late as mid- Victori- 
an times. 

Acting almost without conscious initi- 
ative, Blake crawled through the window 
and let himself down to the dust-carpeted 
and debris-strewn concrete floor. The 
vaulted cellar was a vast one, without par- 
titicwis; and in a corner far to the right, 
amid dense shadows, he saw a black arch- 
way evidently leading upstairs. He felt a 
peculiar sense of oppression at being actu- 
ally within the great spectral building, 
but kept it in check as he cautiously 
scouted about — finding a still-intact barrel 


amid the dust, and rolling it over to the 
open window to provide for his exit. 
TTien, bracing himself, he crossed the 
wide, cobweb-festooned space toward the 
arch. Half choked with the omnipresent 
dust, and covered with ghostly gossamer 
fibers, he reached and began to climb the 
worn stone steps which rose into the 
darkness. He had no light, but groped 
carefully with his hands. After a sharp 
turn he felt a closed door ahead, and a 
little fumbling revealed its ancient latch. 
It opened inward, and beyond it he saw 
a dimly illumined corridor lined with 
worm-eaten paneling. 

O NCE on the ground floor, Blake be- 
gan exploring in a rapid fashion. 
All the inner doors were unlocked, so that 
he freely passed from room to room. The 
colossal nave was an almost eldritch place 
with its drifts and mountains of dust over 
box pews, altar, hour-glass pulpit, and 
sounding-board, and its titanic ropes of 
cobweb stretching among the pointed 
arches of the gallery and entwining the 
clustered Gothic columns. Over all this 
hushed desolation played a hideous leaden 
light as the declining afternoon sun sent 
its rays through the strange, half-black- 
ened panes of the great apsidal windows. 

The paintings on those windows were 
so obscured by soot that Blake could 
scarcely decipher what they had repre- 
sented, but from the little he could make 
out he did not like them. The designs 
were largely conventional, and his knowl- 
edge of obscure symbolism told him 
much concerning some of the ancient pat- 
terns. The few saints depicted bore ex- 
pressions distinctly open to criticism, 
while one of the windows seemed to 
show merely a dark space with spirals of 
curious luminosity scattered about in it. 
Turning away from the windows, Blake 
noticed that the cobwebbed cross above 
the altar was not of the ordinary kind. 


544 


WEIRD TAL]^ 


but resembled the primordial ankh or 
crux ansata of shadowy Egypt. 

In a rear vestry room beside the apse 
Blake found a rotting d^k and ceiling- 
high shelves of mildewed, disintegrating 
books. Here for the first time he received 
a positive shock of objective horror, for 
the titles of those books told him much. 
They were the black, forbidden things 
which most sane people have never even 
heard of, or have heard of only in furtive, 
timorous whispers; the banned and 
dreaded repositories of equivocal secrets 
and immemorial formulae which have 
trickled down the stream of time from 
the days of man’s youth, and the dim, 
fabulous days before man was. He had 
himself read many of them — a Latin ver- 
sion of the abhorred Necronomkon, the 
sinister Liber Ivonis, the infamous Cultes 
des Goitles of Comte d’Erlette, the Urt- 
aussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, and 
old Ludvig Prinn’s hellish De Vermis 
Mysteriis. But there were others he had 
known merely by reputation or not at all 
— the Pnakotk Manuscripts, the Book of 
Dzyan, and a crumbling volume in 
wholly unidentifiable characters yet with 
certain symbols and diagrams shudder- 
ingly recognizable to the occult student. 
Clearly, the lingering local rumors had 
not lied. This place had once been the 
seat of an evil older than mankind and 
wider than the known universe. 

In the ruined desk was a small leather- 
bound record-book filled with entries in 
some odd cryptographic medium. The 
manuscript writing consisted of the com- 
mon traditional symbols used today in 
astronomy and anciently in alchemy, as- 
trology, and other dubious arts— the de- 
vice of the sun, moon, planets, aspects, 
and zodiacal signs — here massed in solid 
pages of text, with divisions and para- 
graphings suggesting that each symbol 
answered to some alphabetical letter. 

In the hope of later solving the cryp- 


togram, Blake bore off ffiis volume is his 
coat pocket. Many of the great tomes on 
the shelves fascinated him unutteraMy, 
and he felt tempted to borrow them at 
some later time. He wondered how they 
could have remained undisturbed so long. 
Was he the first to conquer the clutching, 
pervasive fear which had for nearly sfatiy 
years protected this deserted place from 
visitors? 

Having now ffioroughly explored the 
ground floor, Blake plowed again thrtsu^ 
the dust of the spectral nave to the front 
vestibule, where he had seen a door smd 
staircase presumably leading up to the 
blackened tower and steeple — object so 
long familiar to him at a distance. The 
ascent was a choking experience, for dust 
lay thick, while the Riders had done their 
worst in this constricted place. The stair- 
case was a spiral with high, narrow wood- 
en treads, and now and then Blake passed 
a clouded window looking dizzily out 
over the city. Though he had sees no 
ropes below, he expected to find a bell 
or peal of bells in the tower whose nar- 
row, louver-boarded lancet windows his 
field-glass had studied sO often. Here 
he was doomed to disappointment; for 
when he attained the top of the stahs he 
found the tower chamber vacant of 
chimes, and clearly devoted to vastly dif- 
ferent purposes. 

T he room, about fifteen fe^ square, 
was faintly lighted by four lancet 
windows, one on each side, which were 
glazed within their screening of decayed 
louver-boards. These had been further 
fitted with tight, opaque screens, but the 
latter were now largely rented away. In 
the center of the dust-laden floor rose a 
curiously angled stone pillar some four feet 
in height and two in average diameter, 
covered on each side with bizarre, crudely 
incised and wholly unrecognizable hiero- 
glyphs. On this pillar rested a metal 

W. T.— 2 


THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK 


345 


box of peculiarly asymmetrical form; its 
hinged lid thrown back, and its interior 
holding what looked beneath the decade- 
deep dust to be an egg-shaped or irregu- 
larly spherical object some four inches 
through. Around the pillar in a rough 
circle were seven high-backed Gothic 
chairs still largely intact, wliile behind 
them, ranging along the dark-paneled 
walls, were seven colossal images of 
crumbling, black-painted plaster, resem- 
bling more tlian anything else die cryptic 
carven megaliths of mysterious Easter Is- 
land. In one corner of the cobwebbed 
chamber a ladder was built into the wall, 
leading up to the closed trap-door of the 
windowless steeple above. 

As Blake grew accustomed to the 
feeble light he noticed odd bas-reliefs on 
the strange open box of yellowish metal. 
Approaching, he tried to clear the dust 
away with his hands and handkerchief, 
and saw that the figurings were of a mon- 
strous and utterly alien kind; depicting 
entities which, though seemingly alive, 
resembled no known life-form ever 
evolved on this planet. The four-inch 
seeming sphere turned out to be a nearly 
black, red-striated polyhedron with many 
irregular flat surfaces; either a very re- 
markable crystal of some sort, or an arti- 
ficial object of carved and highly polished 
mineral matter. It did not touch the bot- 
tom of the box, but was held suspended 
by means of a metal band around its cen- 
ter, with seven queerly-designed supports 
extending horizontally to angles of the 
box’s inner wall near the top. This stone, 
once exposed, exerted upon Blake an al- 
most alarming fascination. He could 
scarcely tear his eyes from it, and as he 
looked at its glistening surfaces he almost 
fancied it was transparent, with half- 
formed worlds of wonder within. Into 
his mind floated pictures of alien orbs 
with great stone towers, and other orbs 
with titan mountains and no mark of life, 
.W. T.— 3 


and still remoter spaces where on^a stir- 
ring in vague blacknesses told of the pres- 
ence of consciousness and will. 

When he did look away, it was to no- 
tice a somewhat singular mound of dust 
in the far corner near the ladder to the 
steeple. Just why it took his attention he 
could not tell, but something in Hs con- 
tours carried a message to his unconscious 
mind. Plowing toward it, and brushing 
aside the hanging cobwebs as he went, 
he began to discern something grim about 
it. Hand and handkerchief soon revealed 
the truth, and Blake gasped with a baffl- 
ing mixture of emotions. It was a human 
skeleton, and it must have been there for 
a very long time. The clothing was in 
shreds, but some buttons and fragments 
of cloth bespoke a man’s gray sitit. There 
were other bits of evidence — shoeSj metal 
clasps, huge buttons for round cuffs, a 
stickpin of bygone pattern, a reporter’s 
badge with the name of the old Provi- 
dence Telegram, and a crumbling leather 
pocket-book. Blake examined the latter 
with care, finding within it several bills 
of antiquated issue, a celluloid advertis- 
ing calendar for 1893, some cards with 
the name "Edwin M. Lillibridge,^’ and a 
paper covered with penciled memoranda. 

This paper held much of a puzzling 
nature, and Blake read it carefully at the 
dim westward window. Its disjointed text 
included such phrases as the folibwmg: 

"Prof. Enoch Bowen home ffotn Egypt 
May 1844 — buys old Free-Will Ghafch in 
July — his ardiarological work & studies in 
occult well known.’’ 

"Dr. Drowne of 4th Baptist waws sigainst 
Starry Wisdom in sermon Dec. 29, 1844.’’ 

"Congregation 97 by end of ’43.” 

"1846 — 3 disappearances — ^first mention 
of Shining Trapezohedron.’’ 

"7 disappearances 1848 — stories of blood 
sacrifice begin.” 

"Investigation 1853 comes to nothing- 
stories of sounds.” 

"Fr. O’Malley tells of devil-wMdbip with 


546 


WEffiD TALES 


box found in great Egyptian ruins — ^sap 
they call up something that can’t exist in 
light. Flees a little li^t, and banished by 
strong li^t. "Then has to be summoned 
again. Probably got this from deatlibed con- 
fession of Francis X. Feeney, who had 
joined Starry Wisdom in ’49. 'These people 
say the Siining Trapezohedron shows them 
heaven & other worlds, & that the Haunter 
of the Dark tells them secrets in some way.” 

"Story of Orrin B. Eddy 1857. They call 
it up by gazing at the crystal, & have a secret 
language of their own.” 

"200 or more in cong. 1863, exclusive of 
men at front.” 

"Irish boys mob diurch in 1869 after Pat- 
rick Regan’s disappearance,” 

"Veiled article in J. March 14, ’72, but 
people don’t talk about it.” 

"6 disappearances 1876 — seaet committee 
calls on Mayor Doyle.” 

"Artion promised Feb. 1877 — diurch 
closes in April.” 

"Gang — Federal Hill Boys — threaten Dr. 
and vestrymen in May.” 

"181 persons leave city before end of *77 
- — mention no names.” 

"Ghost stories begin around 1880 — try to 
ascertain truth of report that no human be- 
ing has entered church since 1877.” 

"Ask Lanigan for photograph of place 
taken 1851.” , . . 

R estoring the paper to the pocket- 
■ book and placing the latter in his 
coat, Blake turned to look down at the 
skeleton in the dust. The implications of 
the notes were clear, and there could be 
no doubt but that this man had come to 
the deserted edifice forty-two years before 
in quest of a newspaper sensation which 
no one else had been bold enough to at- 
tempt. Perhaps no one else had known 
of his plan — who could tell.^ But he had 
never returned to his paper. Had some 
bravely-suppressed fear risen to overcome 
him and bring on sudden heart-failure? 
Blake stooped over the gleaming bones 
and noted their peculiar state. Some of 
them were badly scattered, and a few 
seemed oddly dissolved at the ends. Oth- 


ers were strangely yellowed, with vague 
suggestions of charring. 'This charring 
extended to some of the fragments of 
clothing. The skull was in a very pecu- 
liar state — stained yellow, and with a 
charred aperture in the top as if some 
powerful acid had eaten through the solid 
bone. What had happened to the skele- 
ton during its four decades of silent en- 
tombment here Blake could not imagine. 

Before he realized it, he was looking at 
the stone again, and letting its curious 
influence call up a nebulous pageantry in 
his mind. He saw processions of robed, 
hooded figures whose outlines were not 
human, and looked on endless leagues of 
desert lined with carved, sky-reaching 
monoliths. He saw towers and walls in 
nighted depths under the sea, and vortices 
of space where wisps of black mist floated 
before thin shimmerings of cold purple 
haze. And beyond all else he glimpsed 
an infinite gulf of sheer darkness, where 
solid and semi-solid forms were known 
only by their windy stirrings, and cloudy 
patterns of force seemed to superimpose 
order on chaos and hold forth a key to 
all the paradoxes and arcana of the 
worlds we know. 

'Then all at once the spell was broken 
by an access of gnawing, indeterminate 
panic fear. Blake choked and turned 
away from the stone, conscious of some 
formless alien presence close to him and 
watching him with horrible intentness. 
He felt entangled with something — 
something which was not in the stone, 
but which had looked through it at him — 
something which would ceaselessly fol- 
low him with a cognition that was not 
physical sight. Plainly, the place was get- 
ting on his nerves — as well it might in 
view of his gruesome find. The light was 
waning, too, and since he had no illumi- 
nant with him he knew he would have to 
be leaving soon. 

It was then, in the gathering twilight. 


THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK 


347 


that he thought he saw a faint trace of lu- 
minosity in the crazily angled stone. He 
had tried to look away from it, but some 
obscure compulsion drew his eyes back. 
Was there a subtle phosphorescence of 
radio-activity about the thing? What was 
it that the dead man's notes had said con- 
cerning a Shining Trapezohedron? What, 
an3rway, was this abandoned lair of cos- 
mic evil? What had been done here, and 
what might still be lurking in the bird- 
shunned shadows? It seemed now as if 
an elusive touch of fetor had arisen some- 
where close by, though its source was not 
apparent. Blake seized the cover of the 
long-open box and snapped it down. It 
moved easily on its alien hinges, and 
closed completely over the unmistakably 
glowing stone. 

At the sharp click of that closing a soft 
stirring sound seemed to come from the 
steeple’s eternal blackness overhead, be- 
yond the trap-door. Rats, without ques- 
tion— the only living things to reveal 
their presence in this accursed pile since 
he had entered it. And yet that stirring 
in the steeple frightened him horribly, so 
that he plunged almost wildly down the 
spiral stairs, across the ghoulish nave. 
Into the vaulted basement, out amidst the 
gathering dusk of the deserted square, 
and down through the teeming, fear- 
haunted alleys and avenues of Federal 
Hill toward the sane central streets and 
the home-like brick sidewalks of the col- 
lege district. 

During the days which followed, Blake 
told no one of his expedition. Instead, he 
read much in certain books, examined 
long years of newspaper files downtown, 
and worked feverishly at the cryptogram 
in that leather volume from the cob- 
webbed vestry room. The cipher, he soon 
saw, was no simple one; and after a long 
period of endeavor he felt sure that its 
language could not be English, Latin, 
Greek, French, Spanish, Italian, or Ger- 


man. Evidently he would have to Aaw 
upon the deepest wells of his strange eru- 
dition. 

Every evening the old impulse to gaze 
westward returned, and he saw the black 
steeple as of yore amongst the brfetimg 
roofs of a distant and half-fabulous 
world. But now it held a fresh *ote of 
terror for him. He knew the heritage of 
evil lore it masked, and with the knowl- 
edge his vision ran riot in queer new 
ways. The birds of spring were return- 
ing, and as he watched their sunset flights 
he fancied they avoided the gaoa^ lone 
spire as never before. When a flock of 
them approached it, he thought, they 
would wheel and scatter in panic confu- 
sion — and he could guess at the wild 
twitterings which failed to readi him 
across the intervening miles. 

I T WAS in June that Blake’s diary told 
of his victory over the cryptogram. 
The text was, he found, in the dark Aklo 
language used by certain cults of evil an- 
tiquity, and known to him in a baiting 
way through previous researches. The 
diary is strangely reticent about what 
Blake deciphered, but he was patently 
awed and disconcerted by his results. 
'There are references to a Haunter of the 
Dark awaked by gazing into the Shining 
Trapezohedron, and insane conjectures 
about the black gulfs of chaos from which 
it was called. 'The being is spoke® of as 
holding all knowledge, and dearaading 
monstrous sacrifices. Some of Blake’s 
entries show fear lest the thing, which 
he seemed to regard as summoned, stalk 
abroad; though he adds that the street- 
lights form a bulwark which caofiot be 
crossed. 

Of the Shining Trapezohedron he 
speaks often, calling it a window on all 
time and space, and tracing its history 
from the days it was fashioned os dark 
Yuggoth, before ever the Old Ones 


548 


WEIRD TALES 


brought it to ^(Ix. It was treasured and 
placed in its curious box by the crinoid 
things of Antarctica, salvaged from their 
ruins by the serpent-men of Valusia, and 
peered at eons later in Lemuria by the 
first human beings. It crossed strange 
lands and stranger seas, and sank with 
Atlantis before a Minoan fisher meshed 
it in his net and sold it to swarthy mer- 
chants from nighted Khem. The Pharaoh 
Nephren-Ka built around it a temple 
with a windowless crypt, and did that 
which caused his name to be stricken 
from all monuments and records. Then it 
slept in the ruins of that evil fane which 
the priests and the new Pharaoh de- 
stroyed, till the delver’s spade once more 
brought it forth to curse mankind. 

Early in July the newspapers oddly 
supplement Blake’s entries, though in so 
brirf and casual a way that only the diary 
has called general attention to their con- 
tribution. It appears that a new fear had 
been growing on Federal Hill since a 
stxanger had entered the dreaded church. 
The Italians whispered of unaccustomed 
stirrings and bumpings and scrapings in 
tile dark windowless steeple, and called 
on their priests to banish an entity which 
haunted their dreams. Something, they 
said, was constantly watching at a door 
to see if it were dark enough to venture 
forth. Press items mentioned the long- 
standing local superstitions, but failed to 
shed much light on the earlier back- 
ground of the horror. It was obvious that 
the young reporters of today are no anti- 
quarians. In writing of these things in 
his diary, Blake expresses a curious kind 
of remorse, and talla of the duty of bury- 
ing the Shining Trapezohedron and of 
banishing what he had evoked by letting 
daylight into the hideous jutting spire. 
At the same time, however, he displays 
the dangerous extent of his fascination, 
and admits a morbid longing — pervading 
even his dreams — to visit the accursed 


tower and gaze again into the cosmic se- 
crets of the glowing stone. 

Then something in the Journal on the 
morning of July 1 7 threw the diarist into 
a veritable fever of horror. It was only 
a variant of the other half-humorous 
items about the Federal Hill restlessness, 
but to Blake it was somehow very terrible 
indeed. In the night a thunderstorm had 
put the city’s lighting-system out of com- 
mission for a full hour, and in that black 
interval the Italians had nearly gone mad 
with fri^t. Those living near the dread- 
ed church had sworn that the thing in the 
steeple had taken advantage of the street 
lamps’ absence and gone down into the 
body of the church, flopping and bump- 
ing around in a viscous, altogether dread- 
ful way. Toward the last it had bumped 
up to the tower, where there were sounds 
of the shattering of glass. It could go 
wherever the darkness reached, but light 
would always send it fleeing. 

When the current blazed on again 
there had been a shocking commotion in 
the tower, for even the feeble light trick- 
ling through the grime-blackened, louver- 
boarded windows was too much for the 
thing. It had bumped and slithered up 
into its tenebrous steeple just in time — 
for a long dose of light would have sent 
it back into the abyss whence the crazy 
stranger had called it. During the dark 
hour praying crowds had clustered round 
the church in the rain with lighted can- 
dles and lamps somehow shielded with 
folded papers and umbrellas — a guard of 
light to save the city from the nightmare 
that stalks in darkness. Once, those near- 
est the church declared, the outer door 
had rattled hideously. 

But even this was not the worst. That 
evening in the Bulletin Blake read of 
what the reporters had found. Aroused 
at last to the whimsical news value of the 
scare, a pair of them had defied the fran- 
tic crowds of Italians and crawled into 


traE HAUNTER OF THE DARK 


549 


the dinrdi through the cellar window 
after trying the doors in vain. They 
found the dust of the vestibule and of the 
spectral nave plowed up in a singular 
way, with pits of rotted cushions and 
satin pew-linings scattered curiously 
around. There was a bad odor every- 
where, and here and there were bits of 
yellow stain and patches of what looked 
like charring. Opening the door to the 
tower, and pausing a moment at the sus- 
picion of a scraping sound above, they 
found the narrow spiral stairs wiped 
roughly clean. 

In the tower itself a similarly half- 
swept condition existed. They spoke of 
the heptagonal stone pillar, the over- 
turned Gothic chairs, and the bizarre 
plaster images; though strangely enou^ 
the metal box and the old mutilated skele- 
ton were not mentioned. What disturbed 
Blake the most — except for the hints of 
stains and charring and bad odors — was 
the final detail that explained the crashing 
glass. Every one of the tower’s lancet win- 
dows was broken, and two of them had 
been darkened in a crude and hurried way 
by the stuffing of satin pew-linings and 
cushion-horsehair into the spaces between 
the slanting exterior louver-boards. More 
satin fragments and bunches of horsehair 
lay scattered around the newly swept 
floor, as if someone had been interrupted 
in the act of restoring the tower to the 
absolute blackness of its tightly curtained 
days. 

Yellowish stains and charred patches 
were found on the ladder to the window- 
less spire, but when a reporter climbed 
up, opened the horizontally-sliding trap- 
dcwr and shot a feeble flashlight beam 
into the black and strangely fetid space, 
he saw nothing but darkness, and an het- 
erogeneous litter of shapeless fragments 
near the aperture. The verdict, of course, 
was charlatanry. Somebody had played a 
joke on the superstitious hill-dwellers, or 


else some fanatic had striven to bolster up 
their fears for their own supposed good. 
Or perhaps some of the younger and 
more sophisticated dwellers had staged 
an elaborate hoax on the outside world. 
There was an amusing aftermath when 
the police sent an officer to verify the re- 
ports. Three men in succession found 
ways of evading the assignment, and the 
fourth went very reluctantly and returned 
very soon without adding to the account 
given by the reporters. 

F rom this point onward Blake’s diary 
shows a mounting tide of insidious 
horror and nervous apprehension. He 
upbraids himself for not doing some- 
thing, and speculates wildly on the conse- 
quences of another elearical breakdown. 
It has been verified that on three occa- 
sions — during thunderstorms — he tele- 
phoned the electric light company in a 
frantic vein and asked that desperate pre- 
cautions against a lapse of power be ta- 
ken. Now and then his entries show con- 
cern over the failure of the reporters to 
find the metal box and stone, and the 
strangely marred old skeleton, when they 
explored the shadowy tower room. He 
assumed that these things had been re- 
moyed — whither, and by whom or what, 
he could only guess. But his worst fears 
concerned himself, and the kind of un- 
holy rapport he felt to exist between his 
mind and that lurking horror in the dis- 
tant steeple — that monstrous thing of 
night which his rashness had called out 
of the ultimate black spaces. He seemed 
to feel a constant tugging at his will, and 
callers of that period remember how he 
would sit abstractedly at his desk and 
stare out the west window at that far- 
off, spire-bristling mound beyond the 
swirling smoke of the city. His entries 
dwell monotonously on certain terrible 
dreams, and of a strengthening of the 
unholy rapport in his sleep. There is 


556 


WEIRD TALES 


mention of a flight when he awaked to 
find himself fully dressed, outdoors, and 
headed automatically down College Hill 
toward the west. Again and again he 
dwells on the fact that the thing in the 
steeple knows where to find him. 

T^e week following July 30 is recalled 
as the time of Blake’s partial breakdown. 
He did not dress, and ordered all his 
food by telephone. Visitors remarked the 
cords he kept near his bed, and he said 
that sleep-walking had forced him to 
bind his ankles every night with knots 
which would probably hold or else waken 
him with the labor of untying. 

In his diary he told of the hideous ex- 
perience which had brought the collapse. 
After retiring on the night of the 30th 
he had suddenly found himself groping 
about in an almost black space. All he 
could see were short, faint, horizontal 
streaks of bluish light, but he could smell 
an overpowering fetor and hear a curious 
jumble of soft, furtive sounds above him. 
Whenever he moved he stumbled over 
something, and at each noise there would 
come a sort of answering sound from 
above — a vague stirring, mixed with the 
cautious sliding of wood on wood. 

Once his groping hands encountered a 
pillar of stone with a vacant top, whilst 
later he found himself clutching the 
rungs of a ladder built into the wall, and 
fumbling his uncertain way upward to- 
ward some region of intenser stench 
where a hot, searing blast beat down 
against him. Before his eyes a kaleido- 
scopic range of fantasmal images played, 
all of them dissolving at intervals into 
the picture of a vast, unplumbed abyss 
of night wherein whirled suns and worlds 
of an even profounder blackness. He 
thought of the ancient legends of Ulti- 
mate Chaos, at whose center sprawls the 
blind idiot god Azathoth, Lord of All 
'Things, encircled by his flopping horde 
of mindless and amorphous dancers, and 


lulled by the thin monotonous piping of 
a demoniac flute held in nameless paws. 

'Then a sharp report from the Ottter 
world broke through his stupor and 
roused him to the unutterable horros 
his position. What it was, he never knew 
— ^perhaps it was some belated peal from 
the fireworks heard all summer on Fed- 
eral Hill as the dwellers hail their varbos 
patron saints, or the saints of their native 
villages in Italy. In any event he shridked 
aloud, dropped frantically from the lad- 
der, and stumbled blindly across the 
obstructed floor of the almost listless 
chamber that encompassed him. 

He knew instantly where he was, and 
plunged recklessly down the narrow spi- 
ral staircase, tripping and bnzising him- 
self at every turn. There was a nigjiteiare 
flight through a vast cobwebbed nave 
whose ghostly arches reached up to realms 
of leering shadow, a sightless scramble 
through a littered basement, a chmb to 
regions of air and street lights outside, 
and a mad racing down a spectral hill of 
gibbering gables, across a grim, silent 
city of tall black towers, and up the steep 
eastward precipice to his own aadent 
door. 

On regaining consciousness ia tfie 
morning he found himself lying ea bis 
study floor fully dressed. Dirt and cob- 
webs covered him, and every inch of bis 
body seemed sore and bruised. When he 
faced the mirror he saw that his hair was 
badly scorched, while a trace of stsaage, 
evil odor seemed to cling to his iqsper 
outer clothing. It was then that his 
nerves broke down. Thereafter, lounging 
exhaustedly about in a dressing-gown, he 
did little but stare from his west wiodbw, 
shiver at the threat of thunder, and make 
wild entries in his diary, 

T he great storm broke jiKt before 
midnight on August 8th. Lightnhag 
struck repeatedly in all parts of thfc tfty, 


THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK 


5511 


and two remarkable fireballs were re- 
ported. The rain was torrential, while a 
constant fusillade of thunder brought 
sleeplessness to thousands. Blake was ut- 
terly frantic in his fear for the lighting 
system, and tried to telephone the com- 
pany around one a. m., though by that 
time service had been temporarily cut off 
in the interest of safety. He recorded 
everything in his diary — the large, nerv- 
ous, and often undecipherable hiero- 
glyphs telling their own story of growing 
frenzy and despair, and of entries 
scrawled blindly in the dark. 

He had to keep the house dark in order 
to sec out the window, and it appears 
that most of his time, was spent at his 
desk, peering anxiously through the rain 
across the glistening miles of downtown 
roofs at the constellation of distant lights 
marking Federal Hill. Now and then he 
would fumblingly make an entry in his 
diary, so that detached phrases such as 
^'The lights must not go”; “It knows 
where I am"; “I must destroy it”; and 
“It is calling to me, but perhaps it means 
no injury this time"; are found scattered 
down two of the pages. 

Then the lights went out all over the 
city. It happened at 2:12 a. m. according 
to power-house records, but Blake’s diary 
gives no indication of the time. The en- 
try is merely, "Lights out — God help 
me.” On Federal Hill there were watch- 
ers as anxious as he, and rain-soaked 
knots of men paraded the square and al- 
leys around the evil church with umbrel- 
la-shaded candles, electric flashlights, oil 
lanterns, crucifixes, and obscure charms 
of the many sorts common to southern 
Italy. They blessed each flash of light- 
ning, and made cryptical signs of fear 
with their right hands when a turn in the 
storm caused the flashes to lessen and 
finally to cease altogether. A rising wind 
blew out most of the candles, so that the 
scene grew threateningly dark. Someone 


roused Father Merluzzo of Splrito Santo 
Qiurch, and he hastened to the dismal 
square to pronoimce whatever helpful syl- 
lables he could. Of the restless and curi- 
ous sounds in the blackened tower, there 
could be no doubt whatever. 

For what happened at 2:35 we have 
the testimony of the priest, a young, in- 
telligent, and well-educated person; of 
Patrolman William J. Monahan of the 
Central Station, an officer of the highest 
reliability who had paused at that part of 
his beat to inspect the crowd; and of most 
of the seventy-eight men who had gath- 
ered around the church’s high bank wall 
— especially those in the square where the 
eastward facade was visible. Of course 
there was nothing which can be proved as 
being outside the order of nature. The 
possible causes of such an event are many. 
No one can speak with certainty of the 
obscure chemical processes arising in a 
vast, ancient, ill-aired, and long-deserted 
building of heterogaieous contents. Me- 
phitic vapors — spontaneous combustion — 
pressure of gases born of long decay — 
any one of numberless phenomena might 
be responsible. And then, of course, the 
factor of conscious charlatanry can by no 
means be excluded. The thing was really 
quite simple in itself, and covered less 
than three minutes of actual time. Father 
Merluzzo, always a precise man, looked 
at his watch repeatedly. 

It started with a definite swelling of 
the dull fumbling sounds inside the black 
tower. There had for some time been 
a vague exhalation of strange, evil odors 
from the church, and this had now be- 
come emphatic and offensive. Then at 
last there was a sound of splintering 
wood, and a large, heavy object crashed 
down in the yard beneath the frowning 
easterly facade. The tower was invisible 
now that the candles would not burn, but 
as the object neared the ground the peo- 
ple knew that it was the smoke-grimed 


552 


WEIRD TALES 


louver-boafding of that tower’s east win- 
dow. 

Immediately afterward an utterly un- 
bearable fetor welled forth from the un- 
seen heights, choking and sickening the 
trembling watchers, and almost prostrat- 
ing those in the square. At the same time 
the air trembled with a vibration as of 
flapping wings, and a sudden east-blow- 
ing wind more violent than any previous 
blast snatched off the hats and wrenched 
the dripping umbrellas Of the crowd. 
Nothing definite could be seen in the 
candleless night, though some upward- 
looking spectators thought they glimpsed 
a great spreading blur of denser bladc- 
ness against the inky sky — something 
like a formless cloud of smoke that shot 
with meteor-like speed toward the east. 

That was all. The watchers were half 
numbed with fright, awe, and discom- 
fort, and scarcely knew what to do, or 
whether to do anything at all. Not know- 
ing what had happened, they did not re- 
lax their vigil; and a moment later they 
sent up a prayer as a sharp flash of be- 
lated lightning, followed by an ear-split- 
ting crash of sound, rent the flooded 
heavens. Half an hour later the rain 
stopped, and in fifteen minutes more the 
street lights sprang on again, sending the 
weary, bedraggled watchers relievedly 
back to their homes. 

T he next day’s papers gave these mat- 
ters minor mention in connection 
with the general storm reports. It seems 
that the great lightning flash and deafen- 
ing explosion which followed the Fed- 
eral Hill occurrence were even more tre- 
mendous farther east, where a burst of 
the singular fetor was likewise noticed. 
The phenomenon was most marked over 
College Hill, where the crash awaked 
all the sleeping inhabitants and led to a 
bewildered round of speculations. Of 
those who were already awake only a few 


saw the anomalous blaze of light a®tr fte 
top of the hill, or noticed the inexpficable 
upward rush of air which almost stripped 
the leaves from the trees and blasted the 
plants in the gardens. It was agreed that 
the lone, sudden lightning-bolt must have 
struck somewhere in this neighborhood, 
though no trace of its striking could 
afterward be foimd. A youth in the Tau 
Omega fraternity house thought he saw 
a grotesque and hideous mass of smoke 
in the air just as the preliminary flash 
burst, but his Observation has not been 
verified. All of the few observers, how- 
ever, agree as to the violent gust from flie 
west and the flood of intolerable stench 
which preceded the belated stroke; whilst 
evidence concerning the momentary 
burned odor after the stroke is equally 
general. 

These points were discussed very care- 
fully because of their probable conaeciton 
with the death of Robert Blake. Students 
in the Psi Delta house, whose upper rear 
windows looked into Blake’s study, no- 
ticed the blurred white face at the west- 
ward window on the morning of the 9tfa, 
and wondered what was wrong with the 
expression. When they saw the same face 
in the same position that evening, they 
felt worried, and watched for the lights 
to come up in his apartment. Later they 
rang the bell of the darkened flat, and 
finally had a policeman force the door. 

The rigid body sat bolt upright at the 
desk by the window, and when the in- 
truders saw the glassy, bulging eyes, and 
the marks of stark, convulsive fright on 
the twisted features, they turned away in 
sickened dismay. Shortly afterward the 
coroner’s physician made an examination, 
and despite the unbroken window re- 
ported electrical sliock, or nervous tension 
induced by an electrical discharge, as the 
cause of death. The hideous expre^ten 
he ignored altogether, deeming it a fX)t 
improbable result of the profound sfaods 


THE HAUNTER OF THE DARK 


553 


as experienced by a person of such abnor- 
mal imagination and unbalanced emo- 
tions. He deduced these latter qualities 
from the books, paintings, and manu- 
scripts found in the apartment, and from 
the blindly scrawled entries in the diary 
on the desk. Blake had prolonged his 
frenzied jottings to the last, and the 
broken-pointed pencil was found clutched 
in his spasmodically contracted right 
hand. 

T he entries after the failure of the 
lights were highly disjointed, and 
legible only in part. From them certain 
investigators have drawn conclusions dif- 
fering greatly from tlie materialistic offi- 
cial verdict, but such speculations have 
little chance for belief among the conser- 
vative. The case of these imaginative the- 
orists has not been helped by the action of 
superstitious Doctor Dexter, who threw 
the curious box and angled stone — an ob- 
ject certainly self-luminous as seen in the 
black windowless steeple where it was 
found — into the deepest channel of Nar- 
ragansett Bay. Excessive imagination and 
neurotic unbalance on Blake’s part, ag- 
gravated by knowledge of the evil by- 
gone cult whose startling traces he had 
uncovered, form the dominant interpreta- 
tion given those final frenzied jottings. 
These are the entries — or all that can be 
made of them. 

"Lights still out — must be five minutes 
now. Everything depends on lightning. 
Yaddith grant it will keep up! . . . Some 
influence seems beating through it. . , « 
Rain and thunder and wind deafen. . . « 
The thing is taking hold of my mind. . , . 

"Trouble with memory. I see things I 
never knew before. Other worlds and 
other galaxies. . . . Dark. . . . The light- 
ning seems dark and the darkness seems 
light. . . . 

"It cannot be the real hill and church 


that I see in the pitch-darkness. Miet be 
retinal impression left by flashes. Heaven 
grant the Italians are out with their in- 
dies if the lightning stops! 

"What am I afraid of.^ Is it not an 
avatar of Nyarlathotep, who in antique 
and shadowy Khem even took the form 
of man? I remember Yuggoth, and more 
distant Shaggai, and the ultin^e void of 
the black planets. . . . 

"The long, winging flight thrcu-gh the 
void . . . cannot cross the universe of 
light . . . re-created by the thoughts 
caught in the Shining Trapezohedron , . . 
send it through the horrible abysses of 
radiance. . . , 

"My name is Blake — Robert Harrison 
Blake of 620 East Knapp Street, Mil- 
waukee, Wisconsin. . , , I am oa this 
planet. . , 

"Azathoth have mercy! — the lightning 
no longer flashes — horrible — I can see 
everything with a monstrous sense that 
is not sight — light is dark and dark is 
light . . . those people on the hill . . . 
guard . . » candles and charms , , . rt»eir 
priests. , , » 

"Sense of distance gone — far is near 
and near is far. No light — no glass — ■ 
see that steeple — that tower — ^window — 
can hear — Roderick Usher — am rflad or 
going mad — the thing is stirring and 
fumbling in the tower — I am it and it is 
I — I want to get out . . . must get out and 
unify the forces. , i , It knows where 
I am. . . . 

"I am Robert Blake, but I see the 
tower in the dark. There is a monstrous 
odor . . . senses transfigured . . . boarffing 
at that tower window cracking and giv- 
ing way. . . . la , , . ngai . . . ygg. . . , 

"I see it — coming here — heH-wind — • 
titan blur — black wings — Yog-Sothoth 
save me — the three-lobed burning 
eye. , » 




ortrait of a Murderer 


By JOHN RUSSELL FEARN 

odd story of hypnotic power and a gruesome tragedy in ths xhasm. 
that yawns at the foot of Coniston Crag 


I AM A medium; for reference pur- 
poses only I give my name as Henry 
Clifton of London. As to the extent 
of my psychic abilities, I have little to 
say. Also do I withdraw from all respon- 
sibility for the messages which came to 
me from John Carlow Moore after he 
had been executed at fail on Feb- 

ruary 9th, 1936 , I only know that he 
chose me of all men to take his communi- 
cations, the essence of which I have re- 
corded here, verbatim. 

,*«**« 

M y name is John Carlow Moore. I 
first became acquainted with Enoch 
Pym in July of 1934, It happened in the 
casual manner common to potential vital 
happenings. I had taken a brief holiday 
among the lakes, and there, at my littk 
hotel near Coniston, reposed the man for 
whom I was destined to commit murder. 

A curious fellow, Pym — short, inclined 
to be stout, with wild and disordered 
black hair surmounting a podgy, pasty 
face. This general facial outline, lent 
added insipidness by a big, somewhat 
pendulous mouth and pale yet searching 
blue eyes, did little to make him prepos- 
sessing, and yet he held an uncanny fasci- 
nation for me from the first moment I set 
eyes on him. 

Odd though it may sound, I am half 
inclined to think that it was his delightful 
voice that interested me. Nowhere had I 
ever heard so mellow an intonation, so 
smooth and flawless a diction. 

He came into my life on my second 
354 


day at the Lakes, I remember. I had re- 
turned from a happy, solo jaunt to Rydal 
to find him in the low, old-fashioned 
dining-room of my country hotel. He 
was seated at the spotless tea-table eating 
poached eggs on toast, and surrounded 
by cakes, sugar, milk and tea-pot. Prosaic 
details, I know, and yet they were such 
integral, immovable adjuncts of that first 
survey. He smiled at me pleasantly as I 
entered, and soon I was keeping him 
company with another poached egg. For 
a long time we were silent, mentally 
weighing each other up as two English- 
men meeting for the first time in a lonely 
spot are wont to do; then at last he spoke 
and that wonderful voice fell on my ears 
for the first time. 

"My name is Pym — Enoch Pym,” he 
explained. "Just up for a few days’ fish- 
ing — along with other matters.” 

I returned the introduction, told him 
of my eflforts to escape hard work as a 
journalist for a week, and went on to 
elaborate on my inborn love for the Cum- 
berland scenery. We talked far beyond 
the cakes and cigarettes, ultimately con- 
tinuing as we took an evening stroll to- 
ward Coniston village itself. 

In a remarkably short space of time we 
had become the best of friends, which in 
itself was peculiar, for I had the journal- 
ist’s intuition for detecting suspicious 
characters. Certainly I never felt in Pym’s 
presence that there was somewhere in his 
make-up a streak of incarnate cruelty. 

Upon that glorious evening he was ci- 
vility itself. He revealed an amazing 


PORTRAIT OF A MURDERER 


555 


knowledge of all subjeas I touched upon, 
from the printing of newspapers to af- 
fairs of the occult. And all the time his 
superb voice lulled me into a curious sub- 
mission; it droned on and on, merging 
flawlessly into the calm perfection of that 
summer eve. To our left lay Coniston 
Water; to the right the gaunt and stern 
escarpments of Coniston Old Man, 
backed by the sullen ramparts of Dow 
Crags, and farther to the north, its grim 
needle-pointed spires piercing the misty 
gray of the paling sky, stood Helvellyan. 


Altogether then, it was a tratKjuil 
enough environment for two mea with 
apparently kindred interests. We were 
alone on this single wooded road lading 
to Coniston, and I think it was this very 
isolation that caused me to listen with 
credence to Pym’s observations on the 
subjects of mysticism, hypnotism, and the 
supernatural. Most certainly I would 
never have listened with half as much 
seriousness in my native London. 

"Suppose,” he said suddenly, jabbing 
a well-gnawed pipe in the air, "that you 



body iollsng into that chasm is bound to be destroyed." 


WEIRD TALES 


556 

were to die. Do you think you could 
find the way badt? To here?” 

I shoc4c my head. "I don’t think I 
could. Mind you, I believe in after-life, 
but only as a closed book — ^an untouch- 
able plane from which mortals of this 
plane cannot communicate." 

He seemed to ponder over that. We 
walked on again in silence for a space, 
smoking and pursuing our own thoughts; 
then he suddenly resumed, 

"Frankly, Mr. Moore, I came up to the 
Lakes here to make an experiment. One 
might call it an experiment with hypno- 
tism. I was expecting to commandeer the 
services of a farmer or laborer for my 
purposes, but since a good Providence has 
placed me in contact with you I feel that 
perhaps you might ” 

"Why, surely!” I exclaimed. "If I can 
be of any service at all I shall be only too 
pleased. After all, two men in a lonely 
spot like this . . . well, any experiment 
is welcome. What exactly are you going 
to do?” 

"I don’t quite know yet." 

He stopped in mid-stride and cast a 
glance at the darkening sky. "It’s getting 
dark, Mr. Moore,” he remarked, as 
tiiough the topic of hypnotism had never 
been mentioned. "We had better be get- 
ting bade.” 

T hat, I say, was how I met Pym. I 
have tried to convey my first reac- 
tions to his peculiar nature. He seemed, 
as I was with him day after day, to be 
pursuing some strange chimera of his 
own which controlled him with relentless 
power. Although he was always civil and 
pleasing, I had no doubts whatever about 
the moments of calm in which I often 
surprized him. 

While out walking with him this odd 
facet of his nature was completely absent. 


He would talk in that fascinating, half- 
husky voice of his and throw out quite 
meaningless comments about his intended 
experiment — but within the staid and al- 
most gloomy walls of our little hotel he 
would relapse again. 

More often than not I found him gaz- 
ing through the window at the stern bulk 
of Coniston Old Man, shifting his gaze 
only to take in the view of the sullen 
ramparts of Dow Crags to the left of the 
mountain. It was as though they held for 
him an intangible magnetism, as though 
they stimulated within him some imsus- 
pected mental foible. And once I caught 
him muttering half aloud, quite un- 
aware of my presence in the low-ceil- 
inged room. 

". . . it is a fate which I shall admin- 
ister justly, not with my own hands, but 
with all the resources of my brain. There 
can be no other way,” 

Strange observation indeed! I was 
looking at him curiously when he became 
abruptly aware of my presence. With a 
curious smile he joined me at the tea- 
table and, with characteristic calmness, 
made no reference to his strange beha- 
vior. 

"My wife is joining me tonight," he 
said, in a matter-of-fact voice, pouring 
out tea. 

'This was a surprize to me; I had not 
even suspected he was married, 

"I’m glad for your sake, Pym, but I 
shall miss our little walks,” I smiled, 
"Really, I’ve enjoyed them.” 

He gazed at me with the oddest light 
in his eyes. I don’t know whether you 
have ever seen pale blue eyes with the 
evening sun catching them sideways. 
That was how it was at that moment. 
The strong summer evening light was 
streaming through the end window of 
the room and bathed one-half of his pe- 


PORTRAIT OF A MURDERER 


cuHar podgy face in intense radiance. 
Such effect threw the eyes into relief: 
they stared at me like glass circles, limpid 
blue rings with an intensely dark spot of 
pupil in their centers. Just for an instant 
they chilled me, stirred something strong- 
ly in my brain. In those moments it 
seemed as tiiough the entire soul of 
Enoch Pym was laid bare before me. 
Here, I knew, was a man to be wary of; 
and yet his wonderful voice gripped me 
in its inexplicable spell again as he began 
to speak. 

"I really see no reason why our walks 
should be interfered with," he remarked 
calmly, his eyes still upon me. "I too 
have enjoyed them. The quiet mountain 
scenery, our mutual sociability — these are 
things to be treasured for their very rar- 
ity, Moore. As to my wife, she will not 
interfere with us. She is a strange 
woman, moody, usually lost in introspec- 
tions. I fancy she is only joining me be- 
cause she enjoys mountain air. Certainly 
it is not my company she is seeking," 

"No, no — I see,” I nodded quickly, 
and rather than pry into the mysteries of 
his domestic life I let the matter drop. 
For quite a time silence persisted between 
us, I could feel his eyes upon me; 
then back came the superb diction to 
smooth my puzzled reflections. 

"You will not like my wife, Moore.” 

"No.^” I looked up to meet the eyes. 
"Why do you say that.? I get on with 
most people.” 

"Maybe, but you won’t with my wife. 
You see, you will meet as enemies; you 
will not like her; your dislike will grow, 
too. Do you understand that, Moore.? 
You will hate her — hate her!” 

"I — I shall hate her,” I agreed slowly, 
trying to tear my eyes away from his, 
away from the bright glitter of the tea- 
things, the reflections from the silver tea- 


pot, the glare from the reflecting mirror 
on the wall; above all from those two pale 
blue pools in the expressionless face. . . . 
If only I could break the spell of that per- 
fect voice of hisi Its perfection sank into 
every fiber of my being; for a time, how 
long I do not know, I was in a world that 
shimmered and danced with bright sun- 
lights, in a world mastered and controlled 
by a voice, that assured me I would hate 
the woman Betty Pym. Finally, I knew 
I would hate her, but for heaven’s sake 
do not ask me why! 

"Marmalade?” he asked suddenly, and 
I shot out of my vague, indeterminate 
realm of cloudy thoughts and speculations 
to find him holding the silver-edged re- 
ceptacle almost under my nose. Again 
the reflected sunlight beat from it into 
my eyes so that I blinked. 

"Sorry,” I said with an apologetic 
laugh, taking it from him. "I — I was 
day-dreaming, I think. You said some- 
thing about your wife, I believe?” 

"Did I?" He shrugged slightly: the 
man was an absolute chameleon of char- 
acter — he veered perpetually from one 
thing to another, leaving me the more 
mystified every time. "Perhaps I did,” he 
agreed doubtfully, lighting a cigarette. 
"We don’t get on very well, Betty and I. 
. . . However, never mind. It won’t 
interfere with our walks.” 

And as though to substantiate it we 
went out again after tea. 

2 

I T WAS Upon that evening that he went 
to endless trouble to point out to me 
the particular advantages and defects of 
Coniston Old Man and Dow Crags. I 
remember that we walked in the clear, 
sweet wind to the base of the mountain 
and there sat down upon a massive boul- 
der. Pym had a heavy ebony walking- 


358 


WEIRD TALES 


stick with him, and with this he began 
to point out to my interested gaze certain 
landmarks with which he was manifestly 
extremely familiar, 

"You will notice, Moore, that at the 
extreme left of the mountain summit 
there is a chasm, all of seven hundred 
feet in depth, practically sheer, while op- 
posite stand Dow Crags?” 

I nodded, shading my eyes from the 
glaring sun. His voice went on. 

"The Dow Crags are available only 
to trained climbers, but anybody can 
climb the Old Man himself. Up the 
chasm between the two there blows a per- 
petual wind; it is not uncommon for 
climbers to slip and be carried away by it. 
And a body falling from either the Crags 
or the Old Man into that chasm would be 
boiind to be destroyed.” 

*T see,” 1 answered, and although 1 
have a reasonably good memory I never 
retained information with such vivid clar- 
ity before. It seemed as though the things 
he had told me bad been driven into my 
brain with sledgehammer force; I soaked 
them in, pondered them, reiterated them 
to myself all through the remainder of 
our evening ramble. 

He talked on all kinds of topics after- 
ward, but I cannot remember one of 
them. My whole mind was obsessed by 
the knowledge of a chasm and the fact 
that I hated his wife! Curious? Yes, per- 
haps it was. There was I, a perfectly sane 
journalist up for a fishing holiday, com- 
pletely in the toils of this enigmatic man 
with the glorious voice and magnetic eyes. 
Try though I would I could not shake off 
his personality. It held me body and soul. 

When we did ultimately arrive back at 
the hotel his wife had arrived. My first 
impression of her as she sat in the tiny 
dining-room, clearly illuminated in the 
specially generated electric light, was 


quite a favorable one. I completely foe* 
got, for the time being, my ridiculous tef 
solves to hate her. 

She was a small dark woman with a 
pale, aristocratic face and oddly fri^t- 
ened brown eyes. From her appeafance, 
I could better have imagined her as Pym’s 
daughter instead of his wife. Clearly he 
was considerably older. 

He introduced us with that calm way 
he had, taking instant and masterful pos- 
session of the situation. She, for her part, 
remained strangely quiet, eating supper in 
silence and replying only in monosylla- 
bles to her husband’s inquiries as to her 
state of health, journey from home, and 
reactions to the Lake District. 

It required little effort on my part to 
apprehend that there was a strong 
estrangement between them, though what 
it was I was too discreet to ask. I won- 
dered too whether Pym had really told 
me I would hate her or whether I had 
imagined it. Certainly I could find noth- 
ing in her to dislike even. She was inter- 
esting, but nothing more. The domina- 
tion of Pym completely overshadowed 
her. . . . 

Finally, sensing how strained matters 
were, I went up to bed — and not half an 
hour later dropped into a doze. . . s 

T he instant I dropped asleep, as it 
seemed, I became the prey for ter- 
rible and Satanic nightmares. AS flie 
events of the day rose up before me in a 
solid conglomeration, intensely magnified 
and potent, in the midst of which I strug- 
gled like a lost soul. There was Pym with 
his beautiful voice — Pym, receding, ad- 
vancing, receding in perpetual reiteration; 
all face, now nothing but two unblinking 
eyes of pale and heartless blue ilhmuned 
by a strong diagonal light. Once agam 
the flash and glitter of silvered tea-thmgs 
smote upon my tortured vision. 


PORTRAIT OF A MURDERER 


559 


"You will hate my wife, Moore! You 
will hate my wife, Moore! You will hate 

my " On and on, endlessly — a crazy, 

raging diapason of chanting words, merg- 
ing into (he major lunacy of the whole 
horrible occurrence. 

Then presently he seemed to blur, but 
still I h^d his voice ringing loud and 
clear in the now disordered emptinesses 
of my mind. 

"A body falling into that chasm would 
be bound to be destroyed. . . ." 

The voice receded, but the dream was 
as vivid as ever. I was staggering desper- 
ately, half clothed, up the ragged side of 
Coniston Old Man! About me, in the 
chilling wind — for I seemed to be nearly 
at the summit of the mountain — ^stood the 
moonlit desolations of boulders and 
stones. Far below, a reflected silver 
streak, lay G)niston Water. Something 
was weighing me down tremendously. 
To my surprize I discovered that it was a 
body — a woman’s body! Apparently I 
had carried her all the way up the moun- 
tainside. . . . 

Now the dream took on a vaguely ra- 
tional aspect; an ordered sequence came 
from the midst of the ridiculous chaos. 
Only intermittently now did the divine 
voice of Pym call strongly above the 
moaning wind. 

"You’ll hate my wife, Moore! You’ll 
hate my wife! A body falling into that 
chasm is bound to be destroyed!’’ 

"Yes, yes!” I yelled back hoarsely. 
"It’s bound to be destroyed!” 

"You’ll hate my wife, Moore. . . 

I looked down again at the woman I 
had been carrying. She lived, but was 
quite unconscious, a deep wound on her 
forehead from which blood flowed slow- 
ly. I realized that she was Pym’s wife, 
that I had stunned her and brought her 
here. Yes, athwart my subconscious mind 


lay the recollection of how I had crept 
into the little Gothic bedroom where she 
and Pym had been peacefully sleeping. 

It had been easy to take that heavy 
ebon stick of his from near the window, 
so clearly visible in the moonlight, and 
stun her before a single sound could 
escape her. Stealthily I had dragged her 
from the bed; Pym had continued sleep- 
ing. And now? 'The chasm, of course! 
It was quite near to me. I seemed some- 
how to be highly elated with the grue- 
someness of my mission, a mission totally 
foreign to my normal nature. 

Grimly I picked Betty Pym’s limp body 
up in my arms, raised it over my head 
with unbelievable ease, then hurled it 
with all my strength into the eternal 
winds that rage and fume through that 
eight-hundred foot chasm. Immediately 
the body vanished, was lost to sight in 
the moonlight I threw myself down on 
my face and stared down into the abyss. 
The wind stood my hair on end, whistled 
through my teeth. It was biting and cut- 
ting. Even on a summer night an eleva- 
tion of some two thousand feet, clad only 
in a thin shirt and trousers — and brogues, 
of course — is no place to keep warm: I 
was chilled to the bone. Still, I had ac- 
complished my purpose and that gave me 
a strange sense of complacency. Compla- 
cency for the implacable murder of a de- 
fenseless woman whom I hardly knew? 
What sort of a dream was this? It was 
endowed with a vicious and transcending 
realism, far more vivid than any dream 
before, and yet, I insisted to myself, still a 
dream. That being so, I realized, from all 
the observations on dream psychology, 
that I ought to become awake! The real- 
ization of a dream being a dream immedi- 
ately causes sleep to cease — but in this in- 
stance I went on dreaming! 

Puzzled, I rose up at last and turned to 
look toward the silver streak of Coniston 
Water, my only link with the hotel. I 


560 


WEIRD TALES 


moved forward, stumbled amidst the 
countless stones. I was shivering and 
shaking both with intense cold and reac- 
tion, reeling and sprawling with ever- 
widening circles into the maw of a dank 
and wholly inexplicable darkness. . . . 

I AWOKE suddenly, in the oddest fash- 
ion, as though I had been forcibly 
thrown out of sleep into the waking 
world. The vague hangovers of that ap- 
palling nightmare were still upon me; re- 
lentless cold gripped my limbs despite the 
warmth of the little bedroom. 

Shakingly I scrambled out of bed and 
connected the electric heater. By degrees, 
bathed in the radius of its warmth, I began 
to feel more comfortable; the spasmodic 
twitching of my limbs ceased, the paralyz- 
ing sense of terror abated. I sat there, my 
back against the foot of the bed, wrapped 
in a blanket, and gazed into the heart of 
the radiator’s red-hot wires, trying to 
marshal some sense of order out of the 
chaos in my mind. Once I even got up 
again and examined my shirt, trousem 
and shoes. A vast relief swept over me 
at discovering they were exactly where I 
had left them; the shoes in particular were 
quite clean and bore no traces of the mud 
of the hillside, nor did the trouser turn- 
ups. 

Satisfied, I crawled back into bed and 
slept again without dreaming, awaking 
with the dawn, a victim to the obvious 
manifestations of the common cold. I 
dressed and shaved moodily, sneezed an 
absurd number of times, and finally made 
my way down to breakfast. 

Pym was already there, quietly eating 
bacon and eggs, 

"You look tired, Moore,” he com- 
mented, surveying me. "Didn’t you sleep 
well?” 

"I had a hell of a night,” I answered 
briefly. "Must have been a cold coming 


on, I think. Awful dreams, too. You 
know!” 

"Awful dreams?” he repeated in vague- 
surprize. "How queer! Do you knew, 
whenj have a cold approaching 1 don’t 
dream at all. I seem to be drugged, in 
a sort of utter stupor. What, for instance, 
did you dream about? Dreams always 
interest me.” 

I looked at him steadily. 'T dreamt I 
stunned your wife with your heavy ebony 
walking-stick, and then murdered her by 
throwing her body from the top of G>n- 
iston Old Man into that chasm you 
pointed out last evening.” 

"My dear fellow, you were Jn a bad 
way! A walk this morning will clear you 
up a bit, perhaps.” 

"Incidentally,” I said, an odd feeling 
in my heart, "where is your wife?” 

"Oh, she went out for an early walk — 
she always does when on holiday. Good 
Lord, Moore, you’re not thinking that 
dream of yours was real, surely?” 

"It — it was so vivid!” I muttered, 
"Still, thank God I did only dream it!” 

I began to eat, with this consolation in 
my mind, but did not proceed very far. I 
was in no humor for food. The events of 
the night had upset me. I was about to 
rise when a hand suddenly fell upon my 
shoulder. A voice, deep and strong, 
spoke. 

"John Carlow Moore, I have a war- 
rant for your arrest for the murder of 
Betty Pym. . . 

I twisted round, my heart thudding 
violently, and met the cold gray eyes of a 
police inspector. Behind him in the door- 
way of. the dining-room stood two con- 
stables. And Pym? He sat there, smiling 
grimly. 

"Pym!” I gasped hoarsely; "what does 
this mean?” 


W. T.— 8 


PORTRAIT OF A MURDERER 


561 


••It means that my wife’s body was 
found in Dow Crag chasm by me, early 
this morning. I went for a walk before 
dawn, unable to sleep and puzzled at the 
strange disappearance of my wife. I came 
upon her, horribly murdered! Naturally I 
immediately notified the police; they were 
at work wliile you slept after your inhu- 
nun butchery. In my room were found 
an old tie of yours, a button from the 
shirt you wore, and your fingerprints on 
my dbony walking-stick. It was a very 
simple matter to check them by your 
fingerprints on the bowl of your pipe up 
on the mantelpiece there. I persuaded the 
Inspector here that I could probably ex- 
tract a confession from you, and I was 
more than successful. He and these two 
constables heard all you said just now — 
even though you did say it was a dream. 
A dream! My dear Moore!” 

"But — but it was a dream!” I shouted 
huskily. "Damn it, you told me yourself 

tliat your wife was out walking ” 

"Only to lead you on. I soon guessed 
that you were the culprit; you see, I re- 
membered how you told me yesterday that 
you hated my wife!” 

I opened my mouth to speak, but the 
words completely refused to form. My 
mind became a tumbling chaos of con- 
fused thoughts. Only certain things stood 
out like islands in my mental turmoil, and 
those were of being hustled from that 
diniag-room and being thrust, God knows 
how long after, into jail. 

'flien, and only then, did my mind re- 
adjust itself to the stunning conditions 
about me. I employed the best defense 
my modest means would permit and 
prayed for a satisfactory result. Poor fool 
diat I was! 

3 

O NCE, and only once, did Pym visit 
me. He was as smooth and collected 
as ever, his pale blue eyes shining bright- 


ly — but I knew him at last for the devil 
he really was. Yet I let him talk, and I 
listened. His voice was as beautiful as 
ever, 

"I felt that I should make it clear to 
you, my dear Moore, that I owe you no 
personal grudge,” he explained smoothly. 
"You have helped me wonderfully — 
proved the efficiency of the experiment I 
told you about. My experiment, you see, 
was to discover if a man could murder 
another without himself being anything 
but the mental agent behind it. It worked 
• — admirably! My wife, you will perhaps 
have realized, was — ^shall we say? — prone 
to clandestine meetings with a man for 
whom I have an intense antipathy. I con- 
sidered the problem very carefully from 
the moment I realized her unfaithfulness 
to me, and ultimately arrived at the con- 
clusion that he was not nearly so much to 
blame as she. She was deceiving both him 
and me; therefore she was better extermi- 
nated. Do I make myself clear?” 

"You make yourself clear as a cold- 
blooded incarnate devil!” I snapped back. 

"Dear me, how very crude, Moore! 
However, perhaps you’re right. I came to 
the Lake District to find there a laborer, 
or some farm man who would have done 
equally well as my tool; but it so hap- 
pened you were present. So naturally I 
used you. Obviously my wife did not 
come of her own volition; I threatened 
what might happen to her if she did not 
come. Over the telephone, of course! All 
verbal, my dear sir.” 

"Go on!” I ground out. 

"I hypnotized you, Moore — complete- 
ly. You remember the glitter of the tea- 
things when I told you you would hate 
my wife? You remember the glare of the 
sun in your eyes when I told you that a 
body falling into Dow Crag chasm would 
be bound to be destroyed? You remember 
the heavy ebooy stick I used to point out 


562 


WEIRD TALES 


the landmarks? There was the medium 
between! A complete sequence of events 
was hypnotically in your mind. The 
hatred for my wife, the weapon for at- 
tack, and the place for the body ...» 
Last night you did everything I had com- 
manded. I was not asleep when you 
stunned my wife. I followed you to the 
top of the morintain and back again, hold- 
ing you under hypnotic control all the 
time. I saw what you did with my wife; 
I followed you ba^ to the hotel. Need- 
less to relate, I cleaned your shoes and re- 
arranged your clothing to reassure your 
perhaps puzzled mind. ... It was I too 
who provided the clues in my room that 
led to your arrest. , , * So very simple, 
you see.” 

''You’ll not get away with it!” I vowed 
thickly. 'Til do all I can to bring you to 
book. . . 

"As you will,” he shrugged. "So for 
as I am concerned the world is rid of a 
very evil and designing woman. As for 
you, I am seeing to it that a good motive 
for your crime is supplied. You see, I am 
naming you as the 'other man.’ Maybe a 
little unfair of me, but very necessary. , . . 
But my time is up, Mr. Moore. I will 
wish you good day, and” — he smiled 
twistedly — "good luck!” 

Quietly he left the cell. . . , 

N eed I dwell on the harrowing de- 
tails of the events that ensued? I 
stood no earthly chance at the trial — Pym 
saw to that! All my efforts to prove the 
case one of hypnotic control failed com- 
pletely. A matter-of-fact jury and judge 
were not impressed by my story of excur- 
sions into the mesmeric world; rather they 
regarded it as a deliberate fabrication to 
shield my guilt. Certainly I blackened my 
case by resorting to the truth. ... As for 
Pym, he swore my soul away with a mer- 
ciless implacability, aided by the extreme- 
ly dever lawyer whom he had engaged. 


Finally I was found guilty and sen- 
tenced to death — a penalty which I paid 
on the 9th of February, 1935, at eight 
a.m., and the details of which I have not 
the courage to comment upon. But of the 
events following my death I have a very 
dear recollection. . , . 

I was buoyed up into the midst of a 
vast and embracing daricness, in which 
all concept of my other life and body 
vanished ctanpletely, I never saw any 
trace of my mortal body again. I ap- 
peared to be alone in a world of utter si- 
lence — utter physical silence, that is, yet 
filled with a thousand thoughts and con- 
ceptions which I could only assume were 
the mental radiations of the living people 
in the everyday world so utterly hidden 
from me. 

There was no real conviction of loneli- 
ness, no feeling of horror — just that vast 
and all-pervading sensation of being the 
redpient of constant thoughts. Some 
were vague, some distinct; and at last I 
began to realize that these latter were 
connected with psychic and clairvoyant 
people. ... In this wise I came to the 
clear and mediumistic abilities of Henry 
Clifton of London, and through him and 
his untiring patience I have succeeded in 
giving the story of my complete iniKxrence 
in what became known later, so Clifton 
advises me, as the "Cumberland Horror.” 

But there are last words to add to this 
narration. I am dead? No! My body is 
dead, but my mind lives on, and in such 
capacity I have exacted revenge for the 
terrible thing that befell my earthly 
frame. Perhaps it was chance, or some 
instinctive mental gravitation, that caused 
me in my timeless wanderings to contact 
finally the mental vibrations of Enoch 
Pym himself. 

His thoughts, his every mental facet, 
were bared to my extra-mundane percep- 
tions. I gathered that he was in London, 
pursuing psychic and spiritualistic experi- 


PORTRAIT OF A MURDERER 


563 


ments, afranging seances, indulging in 
hypnotism, and generally turning hal- 
lowed and cherished concepts into tur- 
moils of diabolical villainy. 

He had found my vanquishment so 
simple that he was planning his hypnotic 
efforts on a larger scale, overpowering 
leaders of commerce and finance with his 
fascinating personality and ruthless mind. 
I perceived in him a mass-murderer, and 
therein also beheld my duty — and my 
own vengeance! 

For interminable periods I held his 
mind in bondage until the time came 
when I could strike. It came at one of his 
seances. I fought his hypnotic power with 
all the terrific energy of my free mind, 
until at last I felt the opposition snap like 
the breaking of a bough in the wind and 
the emptiness of my eternal wanderings 


was devoid of all disturbing Influences. 
The mentality of Pym had gone, and yet 
he could not be dead surely, or I would 
have felt his presence in the after-life. 

No, he was not dead. Clifton has told 
me that he became suddenly insane and 
babbles now about a man named John 
Carlow Moore and a murdered woman 
on top of a mountain. ... 

Truly, then, I am avenged. I have now 
a lasting and eternal peace, and if I am 
ever destined to assume a mortal form 
again I am in no hurry for it. I have 
drawn the portrait of a murderer and 
now I am free. . . . Free to move end- 
lessly in these swarming currents of men- 
tal vibration. 

Free — unsullied — gloriously alone. 
And yet . . . unafraid! 



Other of Serpents 

By ROBERT BLOCH 


54 short but powerful tale about a Haitian president who disowned hh 
mother ! and the terrible curse uttered by a voodoo-woman 


V OODOOISM is a queer thing. 
Forty years ago it was an unknown 
subject, save in certain esoteric cir- 
des. Today there is a surprizing amount 
of information about it, due to research 
■ — ^and an even more surprizing amount 
of misinformation. 

Recent popular books on the subject 
ate, for the most part, sheer romantic 
fancy; elaborated with the incomplete 
tbeorizings of ignoramuses. 


Perhaps, though, this is for the best. 
For the truth about voodoo is such that 
no writer would care, or dare, to print it. 
Some of it is worse than their wildest fan- 
cies. I myself have seen certain things I 
do not care to discuss. It would be use- 
less to tell people anyway, for they would 
not believe me. And once again, this 
may be for the best. Knowledge can be 
a thousand times more terrifying than ig- 
norance. 


364 


WEIRD TALES 


I know, though, for I have lived in 
Haiti, the dark island. I have learned 
much from legendry, stumbled on many 
things through accident, and the bulk of 
my knowledge comes from the one really 
authentic source — the statements of the 
blacks. They’re not talkative people, as a 
rule, those old natives of the back-hill 
country. It took patience and long famili- 
arity with them before they unbent and 
told me their secrets. 

That’s why so many of the travel books 
are so palpably false — no writer who vis- 
its Haiti for six months or a year could 
possibly ingratiate himself into the confi- 
dence of those who know the facts. 'There 
are so few who really do know; so few 
who are not afraid to tell. 

But I have learned. Let me tell you of 
the olden days; the old times, when Haiti 
rose to an empire, borne on a wave of 
blood. 

1 

I T WAS many years ago, soon after the 
slaves had revolted. Toussaint TOuver- 
ture, Dessalines and King Christophe 
freed them from their French masters, 
freed them after uprisings and massacres 
and set up a kingdom founded on cruelty 
more fantastic than the despotism that 
reigned before. 

'There were no happy blacks in Haiti 
then. They had known too much of tor- 
ture and death; the carefree life of their 
West Indian neighbors was utterly alien 
to these slaves and descendants of slaves, 
A strange mixture of races flourished; 
fierce tribesmen from Ashanti, Dambal- 
lah, and the Guinea Coast; sullen Caribs; 
dusky offspring of renegade Frenchmen; 
bastard admixtures of Spanish, Negro, 
and Indian blood. Sly, treacherous half- 
breeds and mulattos ruled the coast, but 
there were even worse dwellers in the 
hills behind. 


There were jungles k* Haiti, im- 
passable jungles, moxintain-ringed and 
swamp-scourged forests filled with poi- 
sonous insects and pestilential fevers. 
White men dared not enter them, for 
they were worse than death. Blood-suck- 
ing plants, venomous reptiles, diseased 
orchids filled the forests, forests that hid 
horrors Africa had never known. 

For that is where the real voodoo flour- 
ished, back there in the hills. Men lived 
there, it is said, descendants of escaped 
slaves, and outlaw factions that had been 
hunted from the coast. Furtive rumors 
told of isolated villages that practised 
cannibalism, mixed in with dark religious 
rites more dreadful and perverted than 
anything spawned in the Congo itself. 
Necrophilism, phallic worship, anffiropo- 
mancy, and distorted versions of the 
Black Mass were commonplace. The 
shadow of oheah was everywhere. Hu- 
man sacrifice was common, the offering 
up of roosters and goats an accepted 
thing. 'There were orgies around the voo- 
doo altars, and blood was drunk in honor 
of Baron Samede and the old black gods 
brought from ancient lands. 

Everybody knew about it. Eadi night 
the ratta-drmas boomed out from the 
hills, and fires flared over the forests. 
Many known papalois and conjure-doc- 
tors resided on the edge of the coa^ it- 
self, but they were never disturbed. 
Nearly all the "civilized” blacks still be- 
lieve in charms and philtres; even the 
church-goers reverted to talismans and in- 
cantations in time of need. So-called 
"educated” Negroes in Port-au-Prince so- 
ciety were admittedly emissaries from the 
barbarian tribes of the interior, and de- 
spite the outward show of civilization the 
bloody priests still ruled behind the 
throne. 

Of course there were scandals, mysteri- 
ous disappearances, and occasional pro- 
tests from emancipated citizens. But it 


MOTHER OF SERPENTS 


5€5 


was not wise to meddle with those who 
bowed to the Black Mother, or incur the 
anger of the terrible old men who dwelt 
in the shadow of the Snake. 

Such was the status of sorcery when 
Haiti became a republic. People often 
wonder why there is still sorcery existent 
there today; more secretive, perhaps, but 
still surviving. They ask why the ghastly 
zombies are not destroyed, and why the 
Government has not stepped in to stamp 
out the fiendish blood-cults that still lurk 
in the jungle gloom. 

Perchance this tale will provide an an- 
swer; this old, secret tale of the new re- 
public. Officials, remembering the story, 
are still afraid to interfere too strongly, 
and the laws that have been passed are 
very loosely enforced. 

Because the Serpent Cult of Obeah will 
never die in Haiti — in Haiti, that fantas- 
tic island whose sinuous shoreline resem- 
bles the yawning jaws of a monstrous 
snake. 

2 

O NE of the earliest presidents of Haiti 
was an educated man. Although 
born on the island, he was schooled in 
France, and studied extensively while 
abroad. His accession to the highest of- 
fice of the land found him an enlight- 
ened, sophisticated cosmopolite of the 
modern type. Of course he still liked to 
remove his shoes in the privacy of his of- 
fice, but he never displayed his naked toes 
in an official capacity. Don’t misunder- 
stand — the man was no Emperor Jones; 
he was merely a polished ebon gentleman 
whose natural barbarity occasionally broke 
through its veneer of civilization. 

He was, in fact, a very shrewd man. 
He had to be in order to become presi- 
dent in those early days; only extremely 
shrewd men ever attained that dignity. 


Perhaps it would enlighten you a bit 
to say that in those times the term 
"shrewd” was a polite Haitian synonym 
for "crooked.” It is therefore easy to real- 
ize the president’s character when you 
know that he was regarded as one of the 
most successful politicians the republic 
ever produced. 

In his short reign he was opposed by 
very few enemies; and those that did 
work against him usually disappeared. 
The tall, coal-black man with the physical 
skull-conformation of a gorilla labored 
a remarkably crafty brain beneath his 
beetling brow. 

His ability was phenomenal. He had 
an insight into finance which profited him 
greatly; profited him, that is, in both his 
official and unofficial capacity. Whenever 
he saw fit to increase the tax^ he in- 
creased the army as well, and sent it out 
to escort the state tax-collectors. Hb trea- 
ties with foreign countries were master- 
pieces of legal lawlessness. 'Thb black 
Machiavelli knew that he must work fast, 
since presidents bad a peculiar way of 
dying in Haiti. 'They seemed peculiarly 
susceptible to disease — "lead poiswiing,’* 
as our modem gangster friends might 
say. So the president worked very fast 
indeed, and he did a masterful job. 

'This was truly remarkable, in view of 
his humble background. For his was a 
success saga in the good old Horatio Al- 
ger manner. His father was unknown. 
His mother was a conjure-woman in the 
hills, and though quite well known, she 
had been very poor. 'The president had 
been born in a log cabin; quite the classic 
setting for a future distinguished career. 
His early years had been most uneventful, 
until his adoption, at thirteen, a be- 
nevolent Protestant minister. For a year 
he lived with this kind man, serving as 
house-boy in his home. Suddenly the pcxir 
minister died of an obscure ailroei^ this 


566 


WEIRD TALES 


was most unfortunate, for he had been 
quite wealthy and his money was allevi- 
ating much of the suffering in this par- 
ticular section. At any rate, this rich min- 
ister died, and the poor conjure-woman’s 
son sailed to France for a university edu- 
cation. 

As for the conjure-woman, she bought 
herself a new mule and said nothing. 
Her drill at herbs had given her son a 
chance in the world, and she was satisfied. 

It was eight years before the boy re- 
turned. He had changed a great deal 
since his departure; he preferred the so- 
ciety of whites and the octoroon society 
people of Port-au-Prince. It is recorded 
that he rather ignored his old mother, 
too. KQs newly acquired fastidiousness 
made him painfully aware of the woman’s 
ignorant simplicity. Besides, he was am- 
bitious, and he did not care to publicize 
his fdationship with such a notorious 
witch. 

For she was quite famous in her way. 
Where she had come from and what her 
original history was, nobody knew. But 
for many years her hut in the mountains 
had been the rendezvous of strange wor- 
shippers and even stranger emissaries. 
The datk powers of obeoA were evoked in 
her shadowy altar-place amidst the hills, 
and a furtive group of acolytes resided 
there with her. Her ritual fires always 
flared on moonless nights, and bullocks 
were given in bloody baptism to the 
Crawler of Midnight. For she was a 
Priestess of the Serpent. 

Tlie Snake-God, you know, is the real 
deity of the obeah cults. The blacks wor- 
shipped the Serpent in Dahomey and 
Senegal from time immemorial. They 
venerate the reptiles in a curious way, and 
there is some obscure linkage between the 
Snake and the crescent moon. Curious, 
isn't it — this serpent superstition? The 
Garden of Eden had its tempter, you 


know, and the Bible tells of Moses and 
his staff of snakes. The Egyptians re- 
vered Set, and the ancient Hindoos had 
a cobra god. It seems to be general 
throughout the world — the kindred ha- 
tred and reverence of serpents. Always 
they seem to be worshipped as creatures 
of evil. Our own American Indians be- 
lieved in Yig, and Aztec myths follow 
the pattern. And of course the Hopi cer- 
emonial dances are on the same order. 

But the African Serpent legends are 
particularly dreadful, and the Haitian 
adaptations of the sacrificial rites are 
worse. 

A t the time of which I speak some of 
^ the voodoo groups were believed to 
actually breed snakes; they smuggled the 
reptiles over from the Ivory Coast to use 
in their secret practices. There were tall 
tales current about twenty-foot pythons 
which swallowed infants offered up to 
them on the Black Altar, and about send- 
ings of poisonous serpents which killed 
enemies of the voodoo-masters. It is a 
known fact that several anthropoid apes 
had been smuggled into the country by a 
peculiar cult that worshipped gorillas; so 
the serpent legends may have been equal- 
ly tme. 

At any rate, the president’s mother was 
a priestess, and equally as famous, in a 
way, as her distinguished son. He, Just 
after his return, had slowly climbed to 
power. First he had been a tax-gatherer, 
then treasurer, and finally president. Sev- 
eral of his rivals died, and those who op- 
posed him soon found it expedient to dis- 
semble their hatred; for he was still a sav- 
age at heart, and savages like to torment 
their enemies. It was rumored that he 
had construaed a secret torture-chamber 
beneath the palace, and that its instru- 
ments were rusty, though not from disuse. 

The breach between the young states- 


MOTHER OF SERPENTS 


567 


man and his mother began to -widen just 
prior to his presidential incumbency. The 
immediate cause was his marriage to the 
daughter of a rich octoroon planter from 
die coast. Not only was the old woman 
humiliated because her son contaminated 
the family stock (she was pure Negro, 
and descendant of a Niger slave-king), 
but she was further indignant because she 
had not been invited to the wedding. 

It was held in Port-au-Prince, The for- 
ieign consuls were there, and the cream of 
Haitian society was present. The lovely 
bride had been convent-bred, and her an- 
tecedents were held in the highest esteem. 
The groom wisely did not deign to dese- 
crate the nuptial celebration by including 
his rather unsavory parent. 

She came, though, and watched the af- 
fair through the kitchen entranceway. It 
was just as well that she did not make 
her presence known, as it would have em- 
barrassed not only her son, but several 
others as well — official dignitaries who 
sometimes consulted her in their unoffi- 
cial capacity. 

What she saw of her son and his bride 
was not pleasing. The man was an af- 
feaed dandy now, and his wife was a 
silly flirt. The atmosphere of pomp and 
ostentation did not impress her; behind 
their debonair masks of polite sophistica- 
tion she knew that most of those present 
were superstitious Negroes who would 
fun to her for charms or oracular advice 
the moment they were in trouble. Never- 
theless, she took no action; she merely 
smiled rather bitterly and hobbled home. 
After all, she still loved her son. 

The next affront, however, she could 
not overlook. This was the inauguration 
of the new president. She was not invited 
to this affair either, yet she came. And 
diis time she did not skulk in the shad- 
ows. After the oath of office was admin- 
istered she marched boldly up to the nev? 


ruler of Haiti and accosted him before 
the very eyes of the German consul him- 
self. She was a grotesque figure; an un- 
gainly little harridan barely five feet tall, 
black, barefooted, and clad in rags. 

Her son quite naturally ignored her 
presence. The withered crone licked her 
toothless gums in terrible silence. Then, 
quite calmly, she began to curse him — 
not in French, but in native patois of the 
hills. She called down the wrath of her 
bloody gods upon his ungrateful head, 
and threatened both him and his wife 
with vengeance for their smug ingrati- 
tude. The assembled guests were shocked. 

So was the new president. However, 
he did not forget himself. Calmly he mo- 
tioned to his guards, who led the now 
hysterical witch-woman away. He would 
deal with her later. 

The next night when he saw fit to go 
into the dxingeon and reason with his 
mother, she was gone. Disappeared, the 
guards told him, rolling their eyes mys- 
teriously. He had the jailer shot, and 
went back to his official chambers. 

He was a little worried about that curse 
business. You see, he knew what the wo- 
man was capable of. He did not like 
those threats against his wife, either. The 
next day he had some silver bullets mold- 
ed, like King Henry in the old days. He 
also bought an ouanga charm from a 
devil-doctor of his own acquaintance. 
Magic would fight magic. 

That night a serpent came to him in 
dreams; a serpent with green tyes that 
whispered in the way of men and hissed 
at him with shrill and mocking laughter 
as he struck at it in his sleep. There was a 
reptilian odor in his bedroom the next 
morning, and a nauseous slime upon his 
pillow that gave forth a sinailar stench. 
And the president knew that only his 
charm had saved him. 

That afternoon his wife missed one of 


568 


WEIRD TALES 


her Paris frodcs, and the president ques- 
tioned his servants in his private torture- 
chamber below. He learned some facts 
he dared not tell his bride, and thereafter 
he seemed very sad. He had seen his 
mother work with wax images before — 
little mannikins resembling men and wo- 
men, dressed in parts of their stolen gar- 
ments. Sometimes she stuck pins into 
them Of roasted them over a slow fire. 
Always die real people sickened and died. 
This knowledge made the president quite 
unhappy, and he was still more over- 
wrought when messengers returned and 
said that his mother was gone from her 
old hut in the hills. 

T hree days later his wife died, of a 
painful wound in her side which no 
doctor could explain. She was in agony 
until the end, and just before her passing 
it was rumored that her body turned blue 
and bloated up to twice its normal size. 
Her features were eaten away as if with 
leprosy, and her swollen limbs looked 
like ^ose of an elephantiasis victim. 
Loathsome tropical diseases abound in 
Haiti, but none of them kill in three 
days. . . . 

After this the president went mad. 

Like Cotton Mather of old, he started 
on a witch-hunting crusade. Soldiers 
and police were sent out to comb the 
countryside. Spies rode up to hovels on 
the mountain-peaks, and armed patrols 
crouched in far-off fields where the liv- 
ing dead-men work, their glazed and 
glassy qres staring ceaselessly at the moon. 
M-umdois were put to the question over 
slow fires, and possessors of forbidden 
books were roasted over flames fed by 
the very tomes they harbored. Blood- 
hounds yammered in the hills, and priests 
died oa altars where they were wont to 
sacrifice. Only one order had been spe- 
cially given: the president’s mother was 
to be captured alive and unharmed. 


Meanwhile he sat in the palace with 
the embers of slow insanity in his eyes — > 
embers that flared into fiendish flame 
when the guards brought in the withered 
crone, who had been captured near that 
awful grove of idols in the swamp. 

They took her downstairs, although 
she fought and clawed like a wildcat, 
and then the guards went away and left 
her son with her alone. Alone, in a tor- 
ture-chamber, with a mother who cursed 
him from the rack. Alone, with frantic 
fires in his eyes, and a great silver knife 
in his hand. . . . 

The president spent many hours in his 
secret torture-chamber during the next 
few days. He seldom was seen around the 
palace, and his servants were given orders 
that he must not be disturbed. On the 
fourth day he came up the hidden stair- 
way for the last time, and the flickering 
madness in his eyes was gone. 

Just what occurred in the dungeon be- 
low will never be rightly known. No 
doubt that is for the best. The president 
was a savage at heart, and to the brute, 
prolongation of pain always brings ec- 
stasy. . . . 

It is recorded, though, that the old 
witch-woman cursed her son with the 
Serpent's Curse in her dying breath, and 
that is the most terrible curse of all. 

Some idea of what happened may be 
gained by the knowledge of the presi- 
dent’s revenge; for he had a grim sense 
of humor, and a barbarian’s idea of retri- 
bution. His wife had been killed by his 
mother, who fashioned a waxen image. 
He decided to do what would be exqui- 
sitely appropriate. 

When he came up the stairs that last 
time, his servants saw that he bore with 
him a great candle, fashioned of corpse- 
fat. And since nobody ever saw his 
mother’s body again, there were curious 


MOTHER OF SERPENTS 


569 


sutmises as to -where the corpse-fat was 
obtaiaed. But then, the president’s mind 
leaned toward grisly jests. . . . 

The rest of the story is very simple. 
The president went directly to his cham- 
bers in the palace, where he placed the 
candle in a holder on his desk. He had 
neglected his work in the last few days, 
and there was much official business for 
him to transact. For a while he sat in 
silence, staring at the candle with a cu- 
rious, satisfied smile. Then he called for 
his papers and announced that he would 
attend to them immediately. 

H e worked all that night, with two 
guards stationed outside his door. 
Sitting at his desk, he pored over his 
tadc in the candle-light — the candle-light 
from the corpse-fat taper. 

Evidently his mother’s dying curse did 
not bother him at all. Once satisfied, 
his blood-lust abated, he discounted all 
possibility of revenge. Even he was not 
superstitious enough to believe that the 
sorceress could return from her grave. 
He was quite calm as he sat there, quite 
the dvilujed gentleman. The candle cast 
ominous shadows over the darkened 
room, but he did not notice — until it was 
to* late. 'Then he looked up to see the 
corpse-fat candle wriggle into a mon- 
strous life. 

His mother’s curse. . . . 

Tlje candle — the corpse-fat candle — 
was dive! It was a sinuous, twisting 
thing, weaving in its holder with sinister 
purpose. 

T%e flame-tipped end seemed to glow 


strongly into a sudden terrible semblance. 
The president, amazed, saw a fiery face 
— his mother’s; a tiny, wrinkled face of 
flame, with a corpse-fat body that darted 
out toward the man with hideous ease. 
The candle was lengthening as if the 
tallow were melting; lengthening, and 
reaching out toward him in a terrible 
way. 

The president of Haiti screamed, but 
it was too late. The glowing flame on 
the end snuffed out, breaking the hypnot- 
ic spell that had held the man betranced. 
And at that moment the candle leapt, 
while the room faded into dreadful dark- 
ness. It was a ghastly darkness, filled 
with moans, and the sound of a thrash- 
ing body that grew fainter, and faint- 
er. .. . 

It was quite still by the time the guards 
had entered and turned up the lights 
once more. They knew about the corpse- 
fat candle and the witch-mother’s curse. 
That is why they were the first to an- 
nounce the president’s death; the first to 
fire a bullet into his temple and claim he 
committed suicide. 

They told the president’s successor the 
story, and he gave orders that the cru- 
sade against voodoo be abandoned. It 
was better so, for the new man did not 
wish to die. The guards had explained 
why they shot the president and called it 
suicide, and his successor did not wish 
to risk the Serpent Curse. 

For the president of Haiti had been 
strangled to death by his mother’s corpse- 
fat candle — a corpse-fat candle that was 
wound around his neck like a giant snake. 



of Xoatl 

By OTIS ADELBERT KLINE and E HOFFMANN PRICE 

What iVas the weird monster that spread death and panic terror over a peaceful 
Mexican countryside? — a grim tale of a gruesome horror 



AS BART LESLIE nosed his dust- 
coated, twelve-cylinder roadster 
across the railroad tracks, his rug- 
ged face expanded in a good-humored 
grin at the grotesque fancy of the found- 
ers of that excrescence that was marked 
on the maps of northern Mexico as Xoatl, 
They had named the main street Avenida 
de las Palmas; but in lieu of palms, it was 
lined with thick-walled adobe houses as 
alike in their squat, squarish ugfit^s as 
monstrous dice cast into the desert by 
some giant gamester. One heap, how- 
ever, broke the monotony as well as the 
darkness of Avenida de las Palmas. It 
was two stories high, and a second-floor 
gallery overhung the street. Bart Leslie 
braked his car to a halt just short of the 
patch of light that blazed from the 
arched entrance, slid from the wheel be- 
hind which he had been cramped for 
something like fourteen hours, and 
stretched the kinks from his lean, rangy 
body. 

Leslie — better known along the Rio 
Grande as Two-Gxin Bart, formerly of 
the Border Patrol — was in enemy terri- 
tory. Arturo Hernandez’s urgent message 
spoke for itself — but Leslie, true to form, 
made no attempt to conceal his presence. 
After an unobtrusive but all-seeing glance 
of his gray eyes, he stepped into the 
smoke-fogged, kerosene-illuminated tap 
room of the tavern. That swift scrutiny 
sufiiced to assure him that among the 
loungers who had regarded his entry with 
curiosity there was one whose interest was 
intense and personal; and as Leslie ad- 
370 


dressed the bartender in intentionally 
halting Spanish, he watched the fly- 
specked mirrors of the back bar. 

"I am waiting for Dwi Arturo of 
Hacienda de la Plata,” he atmounced. 
"If he should call, be pleased to tell him 
that I will be in that last booth. Over 
there, in the comer. And in the mean- 
while, get me a plate of tacos and a cold 
beer.” 

The scarcely perceptible change in the 
expression of the sharp-faced, swarthy 
fellow who had been watching him con- 
vinced Leslie that the contents of his 
telegram to Hernandez had been fairly 
well circulated about Xoatl; and this 
hinted that the one-eyed cannibal who 
was terrorizing the peons of Don Artu- 
ro’s hacienda in the foothills of the Xoatl 
Mountains had human allies, despite the 
current reports of his satanic origin. 

Leslie picked his way among the tables, 
parted the greasy blue curtains that 
screened the booths reserved for p^rons 
who dropped in from the adjoining 
dance hall, and. planted himself on the 
bare wooden bendi that paralleled either 
wall of the cubicle. He could thus con- 
tinue his scrutiny of the hangers-oo. 

T he tacos were excellent, and the 
beer was better. Leslie tossed the 
waiter a silver peso, and declined his 
change. 

"Gracias, senorF’ Then, gesturaxg to- 
ward the door that opened frcMH the 
booth into the allq^ between the tavern 
and the dance hall, the waker proposed, 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATL 


571 


"Pefkaps your excellency would like com- 
pany, yes? Very beautiful girls. And 
most amiable, senor,” 

He twisted his mustadie, beamed, and 
made an ecstatic grimace that left little 
doubt as to the amiability of the ladies 
who would be most delighted to forsake 
the dance hall; but Leslie yawned pro- 
digiously, cocked his feet on the opposite 
bench, and said, "Hell, no! I’m so tired 
I could sleep standing up! Now beat it — 
but don’t forget to tell Don Arturo I’m 
here.” 


Another mighty yawn. The mozo 
could see with one eye that Leslie’s 
bronzed face was dust-caked and weary. 
He pocketed the change, bowed, and 
solicitously drew the curtains so that the 
chatter of the loungers would be less dis- 
turbing. He and others, however, would 
have been amazed at Leslie’s ensuing 
alertness and humorous grin. Leslie’s 
view of the tap room had been shut off, 
and he did not wish to break the illusion; 
so he drew a heavy-bladed jack-knife and 
with a few deft jabs pierced the front 



''Lcwlie bolted at the tip ol the opening, ond grimaced wryly at the charnel stench thal 
£3lered from the gloom." 


57Z 


WEIRD TALES 


wall of the booth. And as he washed the 
tacos down with the excellent beer, he 
maintained keen observation through his 
improvised loophole. Leslie rolled a cig- 
arette, slouched into the angle of the 
cubicle and relaxed for a cat-nap, but 
despite his seeming torpor, the suggestion 
of a smile twitched at the corners of his 
broad mouth. The man who had been 
watching him had just vanished into the 
darkness of Avenida de las Palmas. 

"Monkey Face,” said Leslie to himself 
as he hitched his single-aaion, frontier- 
model .45's into position for a fast draw, 
"is too damn’ obvious to be interesting.” 

Whereat Leslie renewed his pondering 
on Don Arturo’s alarming letter. But 
finally his chin sagged down to his chest, 
and the cigarette stump dropped from his 
relaxed fingers. Floorboarding it from 
Bonita, north of the Rio Grande, all the 
way to Xoatl was more than a man’s task 
for one day. Presently Leslie was asleep; 
but he was not entirely oblivious of the 
gentle draft of cool air that began to filter 
in from his left. He lifted one eyelid, 
and noticed that the door of the booth 
was very slowly swinging outward. He 
emitted a subdued snore, and waited. 
But though he had not changed his pos- 
ture Leslie’s body had become tense and 
ready for action. 

Through his eyelashes, Leslie recog- 
nized Monkey Face, and caught the chilly 
gleam of a broad-bladed machete. It was 
all to be disaeet and quiet. A machete 
parts head and shoulders so swiftly that 
the victim has no chance to emit even one 
dying gasp. 

Monkey Face had paused to make 
sure of things. He listened for a mo- 
ment, noted Leslie’s folded arms and the 
distance to the butts of his revolvers. 
Despite Leslie’s seemingly conveniently 
averted head, the narrow confines of the 
booth and the need for stealth necessi- 
tated nice work for a decapitating 


stroke. Monkey Face noiselessly crossed 
the threshold, poised himself — ^and then 
things opened up in Xoatl. 

As the glittering, two-foot shard of 
steel lashed out, Leslie’s tense muscles ex- 
ploded in a lunge that catapulted him 
headlong at his assailant and well inside 
his guard. 'The machete sizzled through 
air instead of an averted nedc. Monkey 
Face howled with pain. Steel clattered to 
the floor, wrenched from his numbed fin- 
gers by Leslie’s grip; and simultaneously 
there was a sharp, smacking report — not 
a pistol shot, but Two-Gun Bart’s fist 
hammering home like the kick of a mule. 
Monkey Face pitched back in a graceful 
arc and landed like a bag of meal in the 
patch of light that filtered from the open 
door into the alley. 

'There were other aies, and a shuffle of 
scurrying bare feet. From the tap room 
came a confused muttering and the scrape 
of chairs. Leslie whirled as the blue cur- 
tains jerked aside. A .45 had blossomed 
in eadi hand; but it was not the mass at- 
tack he had expected. 

A tall, handsome Mexican, resplendent 
in purple velvet that glittered with silver 
braid and buttons the size of tea-cups, ex- 
tended a powerful hand as he exclaimed, 
"Don Bart! Por amor de Dios, what is 
it.?” 

I ESLIE bolstered his revolvers, chudded 
^ amiably, and accepted the extended 
hand. 

"Don’t ask me, Don Arturo. I didn’t 
ask that machete artist.” He indicMed the 
groaning Monkey Face who had recov- 
ered sufficiently from a long coimt to 
struggle to his knees. "And he didn’t 
take time to explain.” 

Don Arturo cursed with Latin vigor, 
jeiked a pistol from his gaudy sash. Les- 
lie’s hand flashed out as the weapon 
spurted flame. The shot missed; but it 
hastened Monkey Face’s recovery.. He 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATL 


573 


howled as he scrambled to his feet and 
bounded into the darkness. 

"W’at those hell, my fran’.^” demand- 
ed Don Arturo, outraged at Leslie’s un- 
expected gesture. "I weel keel him ” 

"Aw, nuts!’’ laughed Leslie. "I could 
have killed him myself, but I cold-calked 
him instead, so he’d go back to his boss 
and tell him that a sleeping man took his 
machete away from him and knocked him 
for a row. The moral effect, what?" 

"Son of wan gun! That ees good," ad- 
mitted Don Arturo, Then he somberly 
shook his head, twisted his black mus- 
tache to an even finer point, and said, 
"But I am afraid you ’ave been make con- 
spicuous already. I did my best to im- 
press you weeth — how should I say.^ — 
weeth the peril — you should not have 
wire’ me. 'That advertise your mission.” 

'"rhe worst peril about this country," 
laughed Leslie, "is the danger of dying of 
thirst. Let’s have a drink while you tell 
me about the large doings you promised 
in your letter. But unless it’s more excit- 
ing than bandits. I’m going back to Bon- 
ita. I’m busy as a one-armed paper- 
hanger ’’ 

"You weel be busier as a two-armed 

paper-hanger! Listen, amigo ’’ Then 

he remembered the obligations of hos- 
pitality, called for Leslie’s favorite, a 
Bacardi cocktail, and resumed, "I weel 
explain. I ’ave buy the Hacienda de la 
Plata from Romualdo Pacheco. Wan 
grand bargain. Very cheap. But before I 
move out there more than three months, 
I find the nigger in the woods. No won- 
der that Pacheco offered me the bargain. 
That accursed hacienda is haimted by a 
devil. A cannibal. He ’ave keel three 
men and drink their blood. My peons 
are leaving. I cannot work the property. 
It is a total loss, but if I abandon it, I am 
what you call busted! Clean’ out." 

"Hmmm , . . well, so I gathered 
from your letter, but frankly, it didn’t 


make any too much sense/' said Leslie as 
the mozo set glasses and a well-frosted 
shaker on the table. "Now, this cannibal 
stuff " 

"I ’ave not seen him," admitted Don 
Arturo, "But the peons say he is fully 
eleven feet tall. I would not believe 
them, but those footprints — they are big- 
ger as a suitcase. But that is not the 
worst. Listen — that devil has one big 
bla2ing eye in the middle of his fore- 
head. It is ’’ 

"Wait a minute,” interrupted Leslie, 
"this is getting too strong. Eleven feet 
tall, one over-sized eye, and he’s been 
ganging up on the hired help and eating 
them?” 

"Seguvamente,” affirmed Don Arturo. 
"Several ’ave disappear’. But two we 
found. 'The throat bitten out. The blood 
all drunk. If that is not Satands at work, 
what is it?” 

He piously crossed himself and un- 
ceremoniously gulped his drink. Leslie 
frowned as he sampled the Bacardi. Don 
Arturo was a fighter. Revolutionists, 
bandits, or agrarians, the pests of north- 
ern Mexico, looked all alike to him. If 
Don Arturo was getting shaky, some- 
thing sinister and evil must have taken 
possession of the hacienda. On the other 
hand, the reception committee that had 
lost so little time in waiting on Leslie had 
certainly given little evidence of satanic 
origin. 

"When do we head out for your haci- 
enda?" wondered Leslie as he set down 
his empty glass. "The more I think of it, 
the more it looks as though this will be 
interesting.” 

"We leave at midnight. It is a long 
march.” 

"Nothing doing,” protested Leslie. 
"I’ve been blistering the road for the past 
fourteen hours and I’d prefer to grab 
some sleep before I start interviewing 
cannibals. Let your men return with the 


574 


WEIRD TALES 


horses. You and I will drive out in my 
car.” 

"Thai is wan excellent idea,” agreed 
Don Arturo. "But I think it would be 
dangerous. Already there has been one 
attempt to murder you.” 

'Til chance that,” was Leslie’s careless 
reply, "And come to think of it, tacos 
and beer isn’t a square meal. I could do 
pretty well with some chicken and chile. 
And in the meanwhile you might as well 
have them fix us up with sleeping-quar- 
ters and drag my luggage out of the car.” 

2 

D on ARTURO summoned the propri- 
^f, handed him Leslie’s keys, and 
issued the necessary orders. Despite the 
wedks that had made the Mexican’s dark 
eyes haggard and worried, Don Arturo 
brightened up at Leslie’s hearty apprecia- 
tion of the blistering native cookery and 
cauglit a touch of his free and easy ap- 
proach to the sinister riddle of the haci- 
enda; and as the platters were finally 
cleaned down to the last drop of savory 
gravy, Don Arturo called for coffee, and 
slid cigars across the greasy table. 

Leslie, however, had not forgotten the 
assassin he had thwarted. And thus, 
throughout the meal, he had contrived to 
peep flirough the loophole he had cut 
into the wall of the booth. Neither Don 
Arturo nor the waiter had noticed that 
unobtrusive, sharp-eyed scrutiny; and 
thus both were amazed when Leslie, after 
tasting a spoonful of the steaming bever- 
age, smiled oddly and said, "I’m as tired 
as hell. Bring this coffee up to my room 
— ^Gome on, Arturo!” 

Hernandez was perplexed, but the 
mozo grinned, picked up the tray, and 
led die way to the second floor, where 
rooms had been prepared. But before he 
could leave, Leslie detained him. 

"Jurt a second here, boy! Is this fresh 


coffee, made to our order, as Don Arturo 
demanded.^” 

The waiter's eyes widened. For an in- 
stant he seemed embarrassed; then he as- 
sured, "Si, senor! I prepared it myself. 
With my own hands. Indeed, it is abso- 
lutely fresh. But yes, of course." 

"Hmmmm. . . . I thought so. . . 

He spoke very quietly, but his eyes nar- 
rowed to wrathful, blazing, steel-gray 
slits. The waiter squirmed and fidgeted 
during the interminable scrutiny. Then 
Leslie commanded, "All right, drink 
mine. Every damn’ drop of it!” 

"But, senor ” 

"Drink it!” reiterated Leslie. 'The muz- 
zle of his .45 was pointed straight at the 
waiter’s stomach. "Right now. Before I 
blow your guts around your backbone.” 

The waiter was perspiring profusely, 
despite the chill of the night. His trem- 
bling hand reached for the cup. 

"And don’t drop it,” warned Leslie, 
"or I’ll drop you. Bottoms up!” 

He obeyed. And then Leslie, still cov- 
ering the waiter with his Colt, sampled 
Don Arturo’s coffee. 

"That’s all okey,” he declared. “I’m 
beginning to figure that I’ll have a pleas- 
ant visit at your hacienda, Don Arturo.” 

'Hie Mexican cursed in a low, wrath- 
ful voice, drew his pistol, and said, "Por 
Dios, I will keel this peeg! It is an out- 
rage to my hospitality.” 

He leveled the weapon. ’Hie waiter 
voiced an incoherent, terrified protest. 
And then Don Arturo smiled thinly, 
lowered the pistol, and said, "No. On 
second thought, I will wait. I will be 
sure, first.” 

That was reasonable enough, Leslie 
conceded, for though he was convinced 
that the coffee had been drugged, he 
could not be certain until sufiicient time 
had elapsed to prove his contention. 

’They did not wait long. At the end 
of twenty minutes, the waiter had 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATL 


57S 


slumped into a dmir; and presently the 
opiate had completely overcome him, 
Don Arturo twisted his mustache and 
said with a grim smile, "Now I weel play 
the joke. Let us put this excellent fellow 
to sleep in your bed. And you, my fran’, 
weel do me the honor of sharing my 
room. You need the rest. I will stand 
guard imtil morning." 

"Go ahead,” said Leslie. "But if I 
wasn’t so damn’ sleepy. I’d sit up myself 
to watch for the flabbergasted look on the 
face of the bird that figures he’ll slip into 
my room with a machete.” 

He followed Arturo to the adjoining 
room, kicked oS his boots, and in a mo- 
ment was sound asleep, 

Leslie’s sleep, however, was not inter- 
rupted in the way he had expected. In- 
stead of a crackle of pistol fire and 
Hernandez’s wrathful voice, he heard a 
horrible, gurgling scream that was cut 
short before it had fairly penetrated his 
consciousness. He bounded to his feet, 
revolvers in hand. In the darkness he 
collided with Hernandez. An instant 
later a tongue of light pierced the gloom. 

"Watch it!” warned Leslie, catching 
his friend by the shoulder. 

But the hall was empty. They heard a 
stirring and a thrashing in the adjoining 
room, and then silence. Valdez, the pro- 
prietor, came bounding up the stairs with 
a lantern. 'The rooms at the farther end 
of the hall disgorged a handful of guests. 

"In here,” said Don Arturo, indicating 
the room which his ally was to have oc- 
cupied. 

"Madre de DiosF’ groaned Valdez, 
"They have killed him ” 

"Like hell they have!” interrupted Les- 
lie, crossing the threshold. 

He tried the door. He had left it un- 
lodced; but now it was barred. Leslie 
retreated a pace, hurled himself at the 
barrier. It groaned at the impact of his 


shoulder. Leslie recovered, and again 
flung himself forward. Wood splintered, 
and the bolt tore loose from its socket. 

Guided by the flashlight he had given 
Hernandez, Leslie entered the room. It 
was empty save for a man lying on the 
bed. 

"Good God!" muttered Leslie. "Look 
at his throat!” 

He saw now why that horrified yell 
had been so suddenly cut short. And 
Leslie also knew what Hernandez had 
had in mind in proposing the substitution 
of the unconscious waiter for the intend- 
ed victim. He chuckled grimly, and 
turned toward his friend with an approv- 
ing nod; and he was amazed to note Don 
Arturo’s pallor. 

'That mangled, torn throat was a ghast- 
ly spectacle, but the Mexican had a 
strong stomach. Leslie wondered for a 
moment at Hernandez’s horrified expres- 
sion. 

"Look! I tell you, look! 'That one-eyed 
cannibal — that devil has followed me to 
Xoatl — that ees exactly how he kills my 
peons — tears their throat — Maria Mddre! 
We are not hunting him. He is hunting 
you. And now he has vanished — like 
smoke.” 

But Leslie shook his head. 

"He could have escaped through that 
window that opens into the court. And 
it’s a pretty low-class devil that has to 
bribe a waiter to drug me so I’ll be easy 
meat” 

T he proprietor was crossing himself 
with almost as much vigor as Don 
Arturo. Leslie glanced at his watch. 

"I’ve had a pretty good snooze,” he 
said. "Let’s head out for the hacienda 
before the one-eyed devil discovers his 
mistake.” 

As Bart Leslie was drawing on his 
boots, there was a tap at the door. 


376 


WEIRD TALES 


"Let ’em in,” said Leslie. "I don’t 
think we’ll have any more assassins to- 
night." 

A man with blond, bristling hair, blue 
eyes that peered owlishly from horn- 
rimmed spectacles, and a woolen bath- 
robe drawn about his tall, burly body 
was at the door. He bowed with military 
precision and announced with a barely 
percqjtible Teutonic accent, "I am Doctor 
Johann Ludwig Blauvelt. I witnessed the 
aftermath of this deplorable occurrence.” 

"Come in. Doctor,” invited Leslie. 
"But you're too late to help that poor 
devil." 

"I am not a surgeon but a doctor of 
philosophy,” explained Blauvelt. "And 
I trust that you will pardon the liberty I 
take in intruding. Earlier in the evening, 
I was sitting in the booth adjoining yours. 
I could scarcely avoid overhearing your 
renuuks concerning the monster that is 
terroming the hacienda of ” 

"Arturo J&us Esteban Hernandez y 
CassdTlanca, senor,” announced Leslie’s 
friend. "And you are right. It is no less 
than Satan himself trying to drive me 
from my property.” 

"All of which,” wondered Leslie, "is 
apropos of what.!*” 

"Just this, gentlemen,” explained Doc- 
tor Blauvelt. "I have spent the past year 
in Mexico, engaged in field work, mainly 
archeological and anthropological. I 
would be very grateful for an opportunity 
to make some observations about your 
hacienda. I would be too glad to share, 
in the interests of science, the dangers 
which you gentlemen were discussing.” 

"But certainly, senor! Perhaps with the 
aid of science we will all the sooner hunt 
down this one-eyed monster,” assured 
Don Arturo. ’Then, to Leslie: "My fran’, 
you do not object?” 

"Hell’s fire, no!” said Leslie. "The 


more, the merrier. Just shake it up, Doc- 
tor, and pack your baggage. We’re about 
ready to ride.” 

Blauvelt expressed his thanks, and has- 
tened to his room. Don Arturo quizzi- 
cally regarded Leslie. 

"Science weel perhaps help,” he mur- 
mured, "but me, I put more faith in those 
two guns which you wear so gracefully. 
But what do you sayi*” 

Leslie shrugged, grinned, and roiled a 
cigarette. 

"He’ll probably be a bit of a p«t,” he 
replied carelessly, "but I don’t think he’ll 
hamper us. Unless I’m mistaken, he’ll 
damn’ soon confine his efforts to butterfly- 
chasing.” 

They carried Leslie’s luggage to the 
car. Blauvelt presently joined them with 
his traveling-kit; and with Leslie at the 
wheel, they set out into the chilly dark- 
ness toward the Xoatl range. Hernandez 
lapsed into a brown, moody silence, but 
Blauvelt maintained a running fire of 
ponderously learned discourse. 

"It is my opinion,” he concluded, 
rounding out an elaborate theory, "that 
this is another outcropping of native su- 
perstition. I am certain that my conten- 
tion will be verified.” 

Leslie held his own counsel. He had 
heard similar discourses, and had seen 
them startlingly refuted; and while Leslie 
did not go so far as admitting the super- 
natural, he had often seen enough science 
take the short end of the deal to regard 
it as skeptically as he did outright super- 
stition. Yet he did not anticipate the 
ghastly refutation that awaited Blauvelt’s 
claims when they arrived at the hacienda, 
shortly after daybreak. 

As they cleared a clump of cotton- 
woods, just beyond which Leslie could 
distinguish the square, squat adobe shacks 
of the peons, he heard a yell of terror, 
the report of a rifle, and the whine of a 
ricochet bullet. 


W.T.— 4 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATL 


577 


"Pedro, you jackass!” roared Hernan- 
dez, leaping clear of the running-board. 

A peon, rifle at the ready, emerged 
from the door of the nearest adobe. 

"Cmto del Graol’' he exclaimed in dis- 
may, recognizing his master’s voice. 
"TI«mk God — Don Arturo! I thought 
it was die devil coming back again. 
Look!” 

He gestured toward the roadster. Les- 
lie lauded as he caught die point One 
of the headlights was out; and the car, 
zooming up to the aest of a steep rise in 
the road, had given Pedro the illusion of 
a blazing eye staring down from a con- 
siderable height. The peon’s incoherent 
remarks confirmed his guess. 

"He was here again, tonight,” con- 
cluded Pedro. ^Madre de Dios! We are 
lost! There is no hope. He killed Jose. 
Come. I will show you,” 

The frantic populatic«i of the adobe 
shacks emerged from shelter. Blauvelt 
joined the group, and followed Pedro, 
the foreman, to the house where th^ had 
placed the body of their hapless comrade. 

T he dead man’s face was a mask of 
helpless terror. His throat was hid- 
eously lacerated; but scarcely a drop of 
Hood had been splashed to his chest, 
d^pite the torn jugular and arteries. As 
the light strengthened, Leslie saw that 
the body had been drained of blood, and 
that the ghastly wound gave evidence of 
suction applied to extract the vital fluid. 
He ^ook his head perplexedly as he re- 
garded the gruesome evidence that con- 
firmed Don Arturo’s story; then he turned 
t® Blauvelt, who was solemnly scrutin- 
iziag the body. 

"Weil, Doctor, bow do you like that 
far an ignorant peon’s hallucination.?’’ 

Blauvelt shrugged and imperturbably 
repSed, 'This still does ncH: prove that 
the monger is supematural. If you will 
glaace about, Mr. Leslie, you will see 

ytr. r.—s 


ample confirmation of my contention. 
And now that the light is stronger, it will 
be plain enough.” 

He led the way to the door, crossed 
the hard surface of the drive, and indi- 
cated a dusty patch that lay on the far- 
ther side, 

"I noticed It by the glow of the head- 
light,” he explained, 

"Holy smoke!” muttered Leslie, re- 
garding the monstrous print. It bore only 
a distorted similarity to a human foot; 
but the heel was unmistakable, and the 
toes, six in number, left no doubt that the 
monster must be at least approximately 
anthropoid. The length of stride indi- 
cated prodigious stature. 

"By heaven,” muttered Leslie, "he 
must be eleven feet tall if he’s an inch!" 
Then, to Pedro, "How did it happen? 
And when?” 

"How should I know, senor?" coun- 
tered the swarthy peon. "1 heard a noise, 
then a terrible cry — just like the last time. 
I did not lcx)k out for a long time. I was 
frightened. Then I heard another noise, 
and saw it mnning into the darkness. But 
when — how can I say?” 

And that settled it Leslie knew that 
no peon has more than a vague concep- 
tion of time. Blauvelt, however, solved 
the difficulty as they retnrned to the adobe 
for another look at the corpse. 

"Rigor mortis is just about compldre,” 
he announced. "That would make 
it— — ” 

"Hell’s bells!” interrupted Leslie, 
"that would make it about the time that 
that poor devil was killed in the tavern 
at Xoatl!” 

"Precisely, my fran’,” said Don Ar- 
turo. "Eef that does not prove it to be 
the work of Satams, what else will? 
Who but the devil could kill a man in 
Xoatl and at the same time dreenk Josh’s 
blood? Now wlmt you tliiok, semr el 
Doetori^’ 


378 


WEIRD TALES 


Blauvelt’s face lengthened, and after a 
pause he countered dubiously, "I stUl 
maintain that there is a scientific explana- 
tion.” 

But the effort fell flat; which Blauvelt 
realized when no one bothered to contra- 
dict him. And they were all relieved 
when Hernandez finally said, "Pedro, 
tell Lizeta to get us some breakfast. The 
sun is rising, and Satanas will not 
walk ” 

"Not until another night, Don Artu- 
ro,’’ was the peon’s somber response. 
"We live another day. And that day 
we will spend in leaving this accursed 
hacienda. All of us.” 

"So,” said Hernandez to Leslie as he 
led the way to the broad veranda at the 
front of the ranch house. "You see what 
I have to contend with? Thees bargain — - 
bah! Eef I am not myself keel some eve- 
ning, I am busted. ''R^ich ees as bad.” 

3 

D espite the successful ^orts of Lize- 
ta, the mestiza housekeeper, to turn 
out an American style breakfast in honor 
of Two-Gun Bart, the meal was as de- 
pressing as the dining-hall. The eariy 
morning sun accentuated the decrepitude 
of the hacienda which Don Arturo had 
not yet had time to modernize. And de- 
spite the new proprietor’s efforts at being 
the gracious host, he was obviously wor- 
ried at the somber words of Pedro, 

'"They will all walk out on me,” 
Hernandez repeated. "And news travels 
fast. I weel not for love or money be 
able to keep any peons here.” 

"Sefiof,” interposed Lizeta, "I am not 
afraid. And I will talk to the servants,” 
"If you do as good a job with them as 
you did with br^fast, they’ll all stay,” 
approved Leslie. Then, to his hosti 
"Round up all the laborers and give them 
something to do. That’ll keep them from 


getting morNd. And "organizing a hunt 
to track down the monster will suggest 
the idea that the thing isn’t such a ter- 
ror after all. Sell them that notion, and 
then keep them moving. Right?” 

Don Arturo brightened perceptftdy. 

"Seguramente! That should wodt. I 
weel try it.” 

He reached for his sombrero, took one 
of the Winchester rifles from the wall, 
and led the way toward the adobe shacks. 
The peons had already begun to o^lect 
their families and their scanty bdongings, 
A dozen swarthy, stalwart men, square, 
chunky women, and a horde of half- 
naked children were milling about the 
area when Hernandez picked Pedro from 
the aowd. 

"What sort of foolishness is tiusT’ he 
demanded, "It is well enough to send the 
women and children away. Bat you, 
Pedro — are you one of them?’* 

Pedro sullenly regarded Hetaauadez 
and replied, "The devil is eating as, one 
by one. We do not stay any longet. This 
place is accursed.” 

"And so you forget your friends — 
your brothers — their children who were 
killed by the monster? You leave Don 
Bart to bunt the devil single-handed, do 
you,>’‘ 

At the mention of Leslie’s naftie, mur- 
murs of inters swept the shalqr throng. 
There were few of them who had not 
heard of Bart Leslie’s reckless feats along 
the Rio Grande, 

’Is that Don Bart?” countered Pedro, 
eyeing Leslie. 

"But of course. And you aiake me 
very much ashamed. I told him last 
night that I had men on my haci«cfei, and 
now I find a pack of frightened girls. 
Last night the man-killer broke into Don 
Bart’s room in Xoatl to drink Mis blood 
to keep him away from here. But Don 
Bart sent him howling into the iadeaess; 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATL 


579 


aad now he Is here to hunt him down and 
avenge your dead comrades. 

"And before you leave, saddle some 
horses. Or would you have Don Bart 
hunt the devil on foot as well as single- 
handed? Or will only the household serv- 
ants follow him? Lizeta and the criadas, 
they are staying." 

Pedro’s dark eyes narrowed and his 
swarthy face hardened. Then he said, 
"Me, I was going to stay. It is these 
odiers who were leaving. Tomas! Grego- 
riol Saddle up some horses. And one for 
me. I am going with Don Arturo.” 

Another added his voice to Pedro’s,* 
and in a moment the exodus was brok«i 
up. 

"They are joost like children,” whis- 
pered Hernandez. "So far, so good. But 
we must do something, queeck! Or they 
will hnally leave.” 

"They’re good for a day or so," as- 
sured Leslie. "But they’ll be diffioilt to 
handle if there is another killing.” 

A few moments later, Pedro and To- 
mas returned with horses. 

"How about it, Blauvelt?” demanded 
Leslie as he swung into the saddle. 
“Joining the hunt?” 

"Certainly. I would not miss it for 
anything. But Fll not bother with a rifle. 
'That, I gather, is your specialty. So I will 
devote myself to the interests of science.” 

And that, decided Leslie, as they filed 
from the corral in column of troopers, 
was more than satisfactory. Amateurs 
with firearms were more dangerous to the 
hunters than to the hunted. 

H ernandez wheeled his horse about, 
circled the adobe shacks, reined in 
his mount, and announced, "Here is a 
second set of tracks. His apjmmch to 
Jose’s house.” 

Judging from fee shorter stride, the 
ereahire had been stalking its prey. They 
saw how it bad been lurking behind a 


cottonwood, and how the hapless Jose’s 
footprints ended in a confused thrafeing. 

"The monster’s flight,” reasoned Les- 
lie, "should carry him by the most direct 
route to his den, whereas while he was on 
the prowl he would be zigzagging about, 
hunting his prey.” 

"That Is reasonable,”^ agreed Hernan- 
dez. "But I doubt that he does any hunt- 
ing. He is accustomed to finding his food 
here.” 

Leslie spurred his mount forward so 
that for a moment he rode boot to boot 
with Hernandez. 

"For hell’s swed: sake, cut out cradcs 
like that!” he warned in a low voice. 
"'That’ll scare the peons silly. And what’s 
more, you’re wrong. The brute must and 
probably does eat every day, and if it 
didn’t have some other source of prey, 
the hacienda would have been depopu- 
lated months ago." 

"Hmmm . , , that ees right,” ad- 
mitted Hernandez. "In fact, while there 
have for the past ten years been tumors 
of mysterious disappearances, as I learned 
too late — they did not become terrifying- 
ly frequent until shortly after the earth- 
quake.” 

"Ah — an earthquake?” This from 
Blauvelt, who had maneuvered his horse 
to Don Arturo’s left flank. 'T heard of 
it while I was in Oaxaca, at the hot 
springs. But was it serious.?” 

Hernandez shook his head. 

"It cracked the adobe walls of the 
ranch house in a few places. The main 
force seems to have been in the moun- 
tains. Strangely enough, it greatly 
alarmed the peons. It was as though 
they had a premonition.” 

Blauvelt laughed. "Superstitious fan- 
cies — although tl» intuition of the sav- 
age is keen.” 

A clatter of hoofs interrupted the im- 
pending discourse on anthropology., 


58Q 


tv 7 gy pt* l 


Pedfo and half a dozen laborers came 
charging up. 

”We are joining the hunt, seMor,’* he 
announced. "The rest — they are staying 
to guard the hacienda," 

"Very good,” acknowledged Hernan- 
dez. "Now fall back, so Don Bart can 
follow the trail.” 

T he footprints of the monster led 
southwest from the ranch house and 
toward the Xoatl range. Leslie, back- 
tracking, followed the trail readily 
enough across the tilled patches; but as 
he progressed into the open r^ige, it was 
becoming increasingly difficult to distin- 
guish the gross, shapeless footprints. 

“Seems to have made a bee-line,” he 
observed, "heading directly from that 
pass in the foothills to the hacknda.” 

"And that weel make it difficult,” mut- 
tered Hernandez. "The Xoatl range and 
its foothills have a mos’ unsavory reputa- 
tion among the Indians. When Hernan 
Cortez conquer* Mejcico, some of the 
Nahua people, led by a chief call’ Xoatl, 
fled from the invader and made their 
home in the caves with which those hill 
are honeycomb’. Even to this day, the 
peons can not be persuaded to go near 
those cave. They claim it is haimted by 
devils, by the ghosts of the Nahuas.” 

"Just as I said,” interpolated Blauvelt, 
"That shows the extent of native super- 
stition. 'Those Nahiias are undoubtedly 

the ancestors of your peons. In fact '* 

"Hold it!” snapped Leslie, rdning his 
horse back to its haunches. 

He raised his hand, halting the caval- 
cade, then leaped from the saddle. A 
large silver button lay directly in the 
monster’s trail. It was untarnished, and 
unfilmed with dust; but Leslie saw at a 
glance that the hand-hammered disk of 
silver did not match those that had made 
Don Arturo’s ^a costume resplendent, 
"What distinguished visitors have yon 


had around here lately?” demanded Les- 
lie. 

"None,” replied the Mexican, 

"This does not necessarily prove any- 
thing,” continued Leslie. "But k hasn’t 
been lying here long, and if the CMinibal 
monster isn’t wearing the finery of one of 
his victims, then some well-dressed gen- 
tleman crossed his trail quite recaaSy,” 
"Or else,” suggested Blauvelt, "some- 
one is perpetrating a hoax, and is dis- 
guising himself as a monster,” 

"But who could walk with a stride 
that long?” countered Leslie. 

"Stilts,” was the prompt reply, "would 
solve that difficulty,” 

Leslie’s answer was nonoatamittal; 
"We’ll save the button, and maybe we’ll 
find out who lost it.” 

'They followed the trail for half a mile. 
It disappeared on stony ground; aad de- 
spite his eflPorts, Leslie could not again 
pick it iq>. 

"We’re ^uck,” he finally amiCMiQced, 
"though I’m sure he came from flhe foot- 
hills. Are there any bloodhounds near?*' 
"Not closer than ninety or a iMmdred 
miles,” replied Hernandez, 

Leslie wheeled his horse about. 
^’Tonight we’ll post a guard aboat the 
peons’ quarters,” he ^d, "And when I 
get through filling him with lead, the 
extra weight will keep him frem feawiing 
so fast. In the meanwhile, W'd b^eSr 
grab a sie^ so we'll be ready iac m all- 
night watch.” 

4 

L ATfi that afternoon the of 

' dogs, the excited chatter of the prons, 
and a stir and bustling in the patio of 
the ranch house poietrated Dice’s 

room on the seewid floor. He stepped 
out to the gallery, and foimd that the 
cause of the disturhance was as lovdy a 
girl as he had ever seen sooth ef the Rio 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATL 


581 


Grande, or north of it. She was slender, 
shapdy and colorful despite the severely 
ample tweed sports costiune she had 
donned for a long trip from Monterey 
or Mexico Gty, Leslie decided, as he tried 
to picture her in the infinitely more strik- 
ing garb which ladies of her class would 
wear in town. 

"And look at Gorgeous go for Hernan- 
dez,” was Leslie’s half-envious comment. 
Then he noted that despite the modern- 
ity of her costume, she had made a con- 
cession to old Mexican traditions: a bent, 
white-haired woman in black accom- 
panied her, the inevitable duenna. 

Hernandez, glancing up toward the 
gallery, hailed his friend; and in a mo- 
ment Leslie was presented to the visitors: 
Don Arturo’s sister Maria, and her 
duenna, Sefiora Gomez. But Leslie had 
scarcely paid his respects when Hernan- 
dez interposed; 

'You nuist leave at once, Maria. It is 
dang«ous. Last night ” 

"Dangerous?” She regarded Leslie 
with keen interest, laughed and said, 
'You speak of danger when Don Bart is 
with us? Ridiculous!” 

Hernandez detailed the nature of the 
peril. Maria’s dark eyes widened, and her 
lovely face became grave, but only for a 
moment. 

"I am not afraid. And if I were, I 
would stay anyhow. I knew something 
was wrong. I sensed it from your letters, 
but of coarse I could not guess. Senora 
Gomez and I decided that it was financial 
worries, so I insisted on leaving Mon- 
terey to join you at the hadenda. You 
have been too generems, Arturo, and you 
Oan not afford to have me playing around 
tile city while this impending loss faces 
you, I will not return. And besides, it 
is too late.” 

'Don Bart can drive you back to Xoatl 
to catch the next train ” 

"Don Bart,” ihc couatwed, "will make 


an everlasting enemy if he does not im- 
mediately develop tire trouble or run out 
of gas, or something of the sort. Quick, 
Don Bart — must I begin hating you, or 
will you be so obliging?” 

Leslie, who had at first agreed with 
Hernandez, found his resolution melting 
before those smoldering dark eyes and 
cajoling, crimson smile, 

"Lord, yes. Miss Hernandez!” he 
laughed. "The old tub’s ready to fall to 
pieces, and I couldn’t make it tonight — 
much as I’d enjoy a moemlight drive.” 

"Ah, that is much better! Arturo, what 
would the peons think if yt^ seat your 
precious sister back to Monterqr? What 
a splendid example, when chose poor peo- 
ple are in such a panic!” 

"Oh, all right,” conceded Hernandez. 
'Til tell Lizeta she has a new boss. And 
you will have a delightful time tyranniz- 
ing it over the servants, and I afeall be 
worried silly. So get your tibmgs un- 
packed and be ready for dinaer in an 
hour or so.” 

But before dinner was annoiaited, the 
arrival of another visitor disfi&ctod the 
hacienda from the lurking menace that 
made each siuiset the prelude far night- 
mare terror. A grizzled, whifc-bearded 
man mounted on a coal-black s^ion and 
weighted down with silver braid came 
clinking toward the house. LesMe won- 
dered at Hernandez’s suddenly WEStfchful, 
somber expression as he reprded the 
latest arrival. 

"That’s Pacheco,” muttered Hernan- 
dez. "The fellow who soM me this 
mare’s-nest of a place!" 

But while Hernandez was aet esffosive- 
ly cordial, his greeting was osurtfy as he 
advanced to meet the leatha-fstced old 
fellow whose trailing spurs jingled like 
the sabers of a troop of cavafcy as he 
strode toward the new owner •! Haci- 
enda de la Plata. 

'?^e have just time for one •£ ti^e 


§83 


:WEIRD TALES 


codcisil’ Americano^ said Hernandez at 
the ODaclusion of the three-cornered ex- 
ckaage of compliments. Then, seeing 
Blaiirelt lounging in the arcade, he add- 
ed, "Be pleased to join us> sehor el Doc- 
ioe.^ 

Aad, true to type, Hernandez spoke of 
ererytking except the terror that was de- 
pt^ulating the hacienda. Leslie, instead 
of ioining in the courteous circumlocu- 
tioik that inevitably preceded getting 
dowa to business, unobtrusively scruti- 
nized the grizzled old fellow who had 
fat fears owned the hacienda. Pacheco, 
he Voided, was shrewd, but on the level; 
and then Leslie began to wonder. 

Oae of the silver buttons that ran in 
trd>le rows down the legs of Pacheco’s 
ti^t-fitting trousers was missing; and the 
one that Leslie had picked up while trail- 
ing the monster perfectly matched those 
that regained in place. 

"This old geezer,” was Leslie’s mental 
note, "will explain a few things to me 
before he's through swapping compli- 
ments with Hernandez. He might have 
been walking for his health last night, 
but if he did, he came a long way for a 
moonlight paseo. . . ” 

And then things began to happen. It 
ke|^ Leslie busy recording the rapid suc- 
c^sion of instantaneous impressions. 

I iZBTA, the housekeeper, approached 
^ with a massive silver cocktail-shaker, 
one of the relics of Don Arturo’s town 
hnuse in Monterey. The look that passed 
between Pacheco and the mestha house- 
keeper was flickering, but pointed. That 
set I^lie wondering. Lizeta’s Spanish 
Mood enlivened the heaviness of her fea- 
tures. She was still pleasant-faced and 
shapely, and not many years ago she must 
have been uncommonly handsome. . . . 

Blauvelt, Leslie noted, was regarding 
Pacheco with unusual inteataess for a 
scientist. 


And thai Pacheco dropped a bomb. 

"Don Arturo,” he said, breaking a 
pause in the flow of courtly nothings, "I 
wish to buy this hacienda from you. I 
won the capital prize in the lottery. My 
affairs have been shaky these past few 
years, or I would never have sold. But 
now I can afford to offer you a handsome 
profit.” 

Hernandez’s face was an impassive 
brazen mask; but Leslie sensed his amaze- 
ment. And then, ever vigilant, Leslie’s 
eyes shifted like swords in swift play. 
He caught the momentary change in 
Blauvelt’s scholarly features and pale blue 
eyes, and wondered why for an instant 
the German’s glance crossed Lizeta’s as 
she withdrew with the empty codctail- 
shaker; and he wondered still more at 
the smoldering sullenness that marred 
her face as she shot a final look at Pa- 
checo. 

All in an instant; and the lightning 
succession of impressions left LesUe grop- 
ing. Then he saw that Hernandez was 
smiling and making an evasive gesture as 
he replied to Pacheco’s startling remark: 
"Don Romualdo, your remarks interest 
me. But be so good as to let me ponder 
on the matter. In the morning, perhaps, 
I will be more prepared to consider your 
generosity.” 

But the brusk old fellow laid his cards 
on the table: "My friend, I wiU be frank 
with you. I am a gambler, a speculator. 
You, I believe, are not. Therefore our 
interests are diverse. As for me, I want 
this hacienda mainly for the sake of the 
abandoned mine in the foothills. With 
the sharp rise of silver caused by the 
United States Government, I can profit- 
ably operate the mine. Not as profitably 
as my grandfather did, but well enough. 
There are countless tons of low-grade 
ore which the low price of silver made 
useless. Now it is otherwise. 

"I am frank with you. If you wish to 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATL 


383 


operate the mine, I have nothing more to 
say. But the profit I can give you — ■ 
double the price you paid me — will be 
more than this hacienda would yield in 
years. 

"There has been a cloud over this 
place, I had difficulty with my peons. 
You will have the same. But my offer 
will ” 

"You are too generous, Don Romu' 
aldo,” evaded Hernandez. "And you are 
neglecting your drink. A su sdud, 
lerosF* 

As he rolled a cigarette, Leslie tried to 
fit the jig-saw puzzle together. Padieco, 
he was certain, had been stealthily prowl- 
ing about the hacienda, despite his blunt- 
ness in declaring his aims. Pacheco must 
know more about the nightmare mcaister 
than anyone suspected; yet in view of the 
price of silver, he was ready to risk 
troubles of his own. Miners, with a 
dozen superstitions to every one of the 
peon, would be even more difficult to 
handle. 

"I wonder,” said Leslie to himself, "if 
Pacheco’s yam about the mine is pure 
hooey, and he has promoted this one- 
eyed monster to regain the hacienda he 
had to sell to raise money? And finally, 
why did Lizeta nail him with such a 
look?” 

But before he could mull over the has- 
tily gathered impressions, dinner was an- 
nounced, and Hernandez led his guests 
to the dining-hall, 

D espitb the sparkling presence of 
Maria Hernandez, the meal was 
gloomy, 'Ihere were no lamps, and the 
unshaded candles cast long, ominous 
shadows that reached into those that 
lurked in every comer of the great din- 
ing-hdl. A shadow, reasoned Leslie, is 
only a shadow; nevertheless, he was glad 
he had worn his .43’s to dinner. And as 
the meal dragged on, with forced socia- 


bility competing with Blauvelt's ponder- 
ous discourses, Leslie felt that the sooner 
he could break away and take his post 
among the peons, the better. Tlie poor 
devils were depending on him to fight 
the monster single-handed; and more- 
over, another raid by the beast would fin- 
ish Hernandez. 

"Don Arturo — Miss Hernandez,” he 
began, "it is dark outside. And if you 
will excuse ” 

But Leslie did not complete his requests 
Maria’s eyes, shifting toward some dis- 
traction beyond the dining-table, sudden- 
ly widened; and even before she cried 
out, Leslie knew that she had looked fear 
full in the face, He jerked his chair 
aside, half mmed. For an instant he him- 
self was paralyzed with amazement. 

A monstrous, shapeless head was 
framed by one of the windows that 
pierced the two-foot thickness of the 
adobe wall. The face of the 'ITiing was 
but vaguely human. By the dim outdoor 
light Leslie saw that in lieu of a nose 
the creature had gill-like slits; but the 
most terrifying aspect was the single 
monstrous eye that glared baleful and 
phosphorescent. 

Shrill screams drowned hoarse excla- 
mations and scraping of chairs; atnd then 
Bart Leslie’s .45 stirred up thdndering 
echoes in the spacious hall. 

The head disapp^ed as fee ^urted 
from his revolver. Leslie bovend^ clear 
of the table, dashed to the iam, and 
swung around the comer of &e house; 
but despite his speed, the nsonst^ had 
vanished. As Leslie circled about, seek- 
ing a footprint or possible splash of 
blood that would indicate the direction 
of flight, a woman ran screamiag toward 
him. It was Lizeta, the mestizd house- 
keeper. 

"Which way did it go? Did you see it?'** 

"Si, si! Por did, senor!" Hfer «ccited 
gestures indicated the north. "It sdzed 


584 


WEIRD TALES 


me, bot bjr the grace of God, I managed 
to break loose before it got a fair hold.” 

Leslie observed that Lizeta’s face was 
scratched, her clothing torn, her eyes 
round and frightened. But before he 
could question her and get more explicit 
directkois, Hernandez, Blauvelt and Pa- 
checo rounded the farther comer of die 
randi house. 

"This way, Don Bart!” yelled Hernan- 
dez, catching sight of Leslie, He turned 
to head south. 

"Hell," muttered Leslie, "they’re all 
nutly-^is it north, or is it south?” 

But Hernandez would be more nearly 
ri^: and as Leslie caught up with the 
trio, he called them to halt to survey the 
levd ground that stretched out into the 
shifting twilight The peons, swarming 
from tiheir cabins, joined the group. 

"Look, senorP' muttered Pedro, who 
led them. "Over there. By the cotton- 
woods.” 

Leslie noted a stirring in the shadows, 
and for an instant saw a monstrous hulk 
go shambling from the shelter of one tree 
to the next Despite its grotesque awk- 
wardness, it moved with cat-like speed. 
Ledie bounded forward. 

*'Por Dios!” yelled Pedro, "He will 
kill you." 

The monster vanished. Leslie halted, 
revolver ready. He caught a fresh 
glimpse of that gigantic mockery of 
humanity. His .45 cradded. They heard 
a hair-raising howl and a bestial bellow- 
ing. But as Leslie dashed forward to fol- 
low up his advantage, the crashing and 
ctadding, and pounding of footsteps, 
told him that his fire had no more than 
frightened the creature. By the time that 
Leslie cleared tie cottonwoods, it was 
botmding across the range like a kanga- 
reo; and in the dusk, Leslie knew that 
even hk marksmanship could not touch 
a moving target at that dtstance. He hol- 


stered his smoking revolver and retraced 
his steps. 

"Ole! OW. Don Bart!” applauded the 
peons. 

"What did I tell you, idiots!” diudded 
Hernandez. "Is not the devil himself 
afraid of Don Bart? And now maybe 
you will believe me and stay here, yes.^" 

*‘WT ELL. that’s something,” said Les- 

V V lie as th^ returned to the house. 
"The mozos are convinced that the Thing 
can have the fear of God shot into its 
hide. And I’ll admit I wasn’t any too 
steady myself.” 

Then, as Blauvelt and Pacheco crossed 
the threshold to re-enter the dining-room, 
Leslie added in an undertone; "It locdcs 
as if I’ll have to revamp my suspicions. 
It’s a cinch Pacheco isn’t wearing stilts 
and playing devil to scare you out of 
here.” 

"Nevertheless,” was Hernandez’s som- 
ber retort, "his offer to buy back the 
hacienda comes at a significant moment. 
He may know more about tiie monster 
than we think. He has lived for years in 
this region. And the good God alone 
knows what terrible things may not have 
come out of the countless caves of the 
Xoatl range. I am sorely tempted to ac- 
cept his offer before he changes his 
mind.” 

"That,” said Leslie, "is your business. 
But whether it’s man, beast, or devil, I’m 
getting to the bottom of things or else 
you will be speaking of your friatid the 
late Bart Leslie.” 

"God forbid!” was the devout widi. 
Then, resuming his place at the table, 
Hernandez said to Maria, "Well, little 
sister — do you think it would be wise to 
let Don Bart drive you bade to Xoatl?” 

"Positively ootl” she dedared. "I will 
stay here.” 

Leslie saw the futilify of trying to 
reasrm wiffi iter. He turned to i^auvdfl 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATL 


585 


said, "Doctor, have you changed 
yoiMr opinion, or do you still insist it’s all 
native superstition?’’ 

Blauvelt was far from ccwnposed, and 
his scientific stubbornness was sagging. 

'"Hiere is no doubt that there actually 
is slKh a monster. I could scarcely dis- 
pute it, after that hideous apparition. 
You remember the legend of the Cyclops 
• — the one-eyed giant of the Odjssej?” 

Leslie nodded. 

”It is by no means impossible,” con- 
tiooed Blauvelt, "that we have seen a 
revemon to type, an example of atavism. 
Sdeoce, while to a degree discounting 
le^sd and superstition, has finally come 
t9 the ctmciusion that many of the classi- 
cal fables did in the dim mists of an- 
t^alty have an origin in truth. And thus 
I am willing to concede that perhaps this 
mottster could be one of that fabled race 
of o«e-£gred giants. In that case we have 
but seen the beginning of terror. The 
creature may be of such primitive nerv- 
ots otganization that unless you literally 
chopped it to pieces with bullets, you 
could scarcely harm it.” 

Leslie smiled grimly; but before Blau- 
velt could carry on to offer scientific 
proof of the existence of the terror he 
tud so stubbornly denied, Hernandez ab- 
ruptly interrupted, "We will all sleep 
under arms tonight. While I scarcely 
aatidpate a return of ihc monster, having 
ouf g^ons handy will promote rest.” 

"And in the meanwhile,” said Leslie, 
"rU stand watch with the mozos. Lord 
knows I’d not want any of them killed. 
Nrt after the big hand they gave me for 
my bum shooting.” 

But before he left the room, he stepped 
to ffiauvek’s pkce and whispered in his 
ear, "Listen, friend: one room word from 
yoa about Cyclops legen<k, and Fli tie 
you in knots. I can appreciate your fair- 
mifededaess ki adoHttiag a diange of 
heat, but Miss Hernandez is ^miliar 


enough with mythology to be scared 
silly by scientific proof that Ulysses prob- 
ably did watch a one-eyed giant eat his 
comrades one by one. Talk about botany 
for a change!” 

And while the learned doctor was 
digesting that, Leslie was stalking toward 
the door. 

5 

W HZU Leslie readied his post, he 
found Pedro, armed with a ma- 
chete and a shotgun, sitting at the foot 
of a huge cottonwood. 

"Que td, Pedro?’' 

" 'Sta bueno, se^of,” was die big fel- 
low’s response, quite in contrast to his 
earlier glocan. "Me, I am afraid of noth- 
ing. But these other fellows ” 

His contemptuous ^sture indicated 
the peons who had retired to adobe 
shacks. But Leslie could in no wise relax 
his own vigilance, for now that Pedro 
was inflated with new-found valor, he 
would in all probability fall soundly 
asleep and thus be an easy viaim of the 
Cydops. 

Several hours passed, and the voices 
from within the ranch house at last sub- 
sided. 'The silence, however, was pres- 
ently broken by footsteps, and Leslie, in 
response to bis low-voiced challenge, 
heard Hernandez say, "It is I — Arturo.” 

"What do you make of it all? Par- 
ticularly Pacheco. He’s a sour note if 
fliere ever was one.” 

Hernandez shrugged and replied, "It 
is true that he may be using the one-eyed 
devil to further his plans. But I can hard- 
ly see how he could be responsible for 
the beast. And while your finding that 
alver hmtton proves that he was spying 
around here, we certainly cannot daim 
that he is otasquexading as a cannibal. 
He was whh as wh^ the Cydops looked 


58S 


WEIRD TALES 


in through the window. "But what is 
your thought, 

"It’s damn’ confused, and getting more 
so. I sense a dirty mess of trickery; yet 
I can’t for the life of me see how anyone 
can be more than just making use of cir- 
cumstances. But now that you’re here — ■ 
halt!” 

Hernandez ducked to the shadow of a 
cottonwood. Leslie drew his .45 and 
whirled to face the figure that loomed up 
in the dark; but a voice reassured him. 

"Never mind cocking your revolver. 
This is Blauvelt. I have finally arranged 
my argument, and perhaps while you’re 
on watch, you’d have time to listen to me 
prove that the recent earthquake quite 
conceivably has something to do with the 
recrudescence of this one-eyed monster. 
As remember, the Cyclops of legend 
dwelt in caverns, and ” 

"Mi^ty damn’ interesting, Dcxtor,’* 
interrupted Leslie, bolstering his Colt. 
"But suppose you explain it to Don Ar- 
turo while you’re helping him stand 
watdi. He just came out to relieve me 
while I went on the prowL” 

Whereupon Leslie entered the patio of 
the ranch house and ascended the stairs 
to the second floor. He was already 
familiar with the assignment of rooms 
and lost no time in stealing through the 
darkness toward Pacheco’s door. His in- 
tent was no more than to check up and 
see whether the old fellow was asleep, 
sitting up, or perhaps already engaged in 
another nocturnal promenade around the 
hacienda; but as he approached the door, 
he learned that he had another, though 
not entirely unexpected factor to take into 
account 

There was no streak of light reaching 
out from the threshold, but Pacheco was 
neither asleep nor alone. And the voice 
was that of Lizeta, the housekeeper. 

"'Then increase your offer” she was 


saying. "If Don Axturo won’t take yoor 
first bid, try again.” 

"No, por Dios I’* growled P^dreco. 
"And even if I doubled my offer — which 
I can’t and won’t — ^he wouldn’t t«ke it, 
now that this never too much to be ac- 
cursed Gringo has that monster on the 
run. That Bart Leslie will surely kill him. 
If not today, then tomorrow. Hernandez 
knows that, and he will not sell except 
at a ruinous price. 

"Now get out! You are a damned 
pest, and you forget your place. By-gones 
are t^-gones, and why drag up ancient 
history ” 

Lizeta’s wrathful reply was inarticulate, 
then distinctly profane, and finally, 
threatening. 

'Y'ou white-bearded old goat,’* she 
snarled, "if you’ll do nothing about it, 
then I will.” 

She started toward the door. Leslie 
shrank into the shadow of a pilaster and 
watched Lizeta burst wrathfuily into the 
hallway, and thence to the lower floor. 
Presently Leslie descended to Ae patio. 
He could no longer doubt that Lizeta 
and Pacheco were plotting a^unst 
Hernandez; but the mestizos threat per- 
plexed him, Lesdie hoped that that pest 
of a scientist would not be too dd&cmlt to 
side-track, as a few confide^al words 
with Hernandez were then and there ift 
order. It was with considerable teti^ that 
he learned, as Hernandez accentod him 
near the laborers’ shacks, drat Bkmvelt 
had left but a moment ago. 

"He held forth charmingly jS to the 
reality of that eleven-foot man-eating 
monster,” said Hernandez. "Which of 
course we have had terrible proof* And 
I remarked to that effect, which ” 

"Nuts for him!” chuckled Leslie. 
"You’d better tell me a hit about 
Pacheco, and a lot about your housekeep- 
er. Among other thin^, she gave me a 
bum steer when I todt after die Cyclops 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATE 


587 . 


ths evening, •which set me thinking. 
Thea I just overheard her reading the 
riot act to Pacheco.” 

Leslie detailed his impressions, then 
concluded, "And now what do you 
make of it.^” 

"It is no secret,” replied Hernandez, 
"that Pacheco and his pretty mestiza 
hoBsekeeper were quite friendly, years 
ago. It would seem that Lizeta hopes to 
regain her lost status as unofficial lady of 
the hacienda, which of course would be 
io^ssible unless I sell out to Pacheco. 
But, sangre de Cristol You surely can’t 
btiKeve that Lizeta is engineering a mon- 
strous hoax, and impersonating this awful 
beast? Impossible, my fran’!” 

"Nothing is impossible,” countered 
Leslie. "Of course she’s not imperson- 
atiag it. But she lied like hell when I 
dashed out looking for it. And I can’t 
find any signs of the struggle she de- 
cdbed. And she’s on the war-path. 
S*- ” 

B ut Leslie’s conclusion was not enun- 
ciated. He was interrupted by a 
scream. Only a woman in extreme 
terror could thus cry out. Leslie’s first 
tkoBght was that Lizeta had returned to 
resume the quarrel with Pacheco, and 
that the brusk old fellow was trying to 
kSi her, and that he knew that some 
wamaa was in fear of more than death. 

"ft’s the Cyclops!” yelled Leslie as he 
dashed toward the house. "It’s broken in! 
Root out the peons! Saddle up horses, 
vdbfle 1 ” 

Aad as he ran, Leslie saw Hernandez 
had booted Pedro to his feet, and heard 
liim shouting orders. He bounded across 
the patio and up the stairs. The second 
floor was in a turmoil. He beard a wo- 
maa sobbing, heard Blauvelt’s demand, 
"Yot iss?” 

'Hie disturbaace came from Maria’s 


room. Leslie cleared the threshold at a 
leap, and saw Blauvelt striking light to a 
candle. Old Sefiora Gomez lay writhing 
and screaming on the floor. Maria’s bed 
was empty. The heavy window-bars had 
been wrenched from their sockets as 
though they had been tallow candles in- 
stead of three-quarter inch, hand-wrought 
iron, 

"’The devil — the one-eyed monster,” 
cried the old woman. "He broke in — 
seized her — I tried to stop him — ^my arm 
is broken — Don Bart, save her ” 

"Which way did he go?” demanded 
Leslie. 

Sefiora Gomez indicated the window, 

"Blauvelt, round up Lizeta to take care 
of the old lady!” commanded Leslie. 
"Then join us at the corrals. We’ll track 
the beast down if we have to climb hell’s 
back stairs barefooted. Get Pacheco, too!” 

Leslie descended the stairs, three steps 
at a time. He tore through the dining- 
room, swept three rifles from their pegs as 
he ran, and continued his rush toward the 
corral. 

"Hernandez!” he shouted. "It got 
Maria! I’m going out on foot. You fol- 
low on horse. Moon’s" rising, and maybe 
I can keep it in sight!” 

He dropped his load of rifles, turned 
and sprinted toward the direction taken 
by the Cyclops earlier in the evening. As 
he passed beneath Maria's window, he 
saw, distinct in the moonlight, the mon- 
strous footprints of the beast. Revolver 
in hand, he plowed through a truck gar- 
den, toward the outer fringe c?f trees in 
which the beast had played hide and seek 
while favored by twilight gloom. 

Leslie noted with relief that there was 
no trail of blood. Profiting by its earlier 
experience, the Cyclops was not pausing 
to kill his victims. 'That would give Maria 
a chance; and despite its prodigious 
strength, the beast could scarry be s® 
fleet of foot when burdened by its prey. 


388 


WHRD TALES 


A despairing, half-strangled shriek 
guided Leslie, And then Maria’s outcry 
ceased. 

Leslie, clearing the intervening tre«, 
caught his first full, unobstructed view Of 
the blood-thirsty terror. It towered mon- 
strously in the moon-glow, a lurching, 
nightmare figure all the more hideous 
for its semblance to humanity. Under 
one arm it carried Maria Hernandez as 
though she were a kitten. The other arm 
svying free, a great, misshapen append- 
age that reached to the creature’s knees. 
Its long, annihilating strides as it struck 
out across the open range and toward the 
Xoatl foothills were gaining on Leslie, 
gaining at a dismaying rate, despite his 
heart-breaking sprint. Behind him he 
heard shouts and the snorting of horses, 
the clatter of hoofs, the excited yells of 
the aroused peons — but he wondered, as 
he pushed on, whether the pursuit could 
be organized in time. 

He halted, forced his shaking mmcles 
to obey, and leveled his .45. Moonlight, 
and a moving target at that range made 
the attempt dangerous, despite the bulk 
of the creature; but Leslie aimed low. 
For a moment the roar and thunder of 
the heavy revolver drowned the tumult in 
the rear. Leslie beard the monster bellow, 
stagger, lurch forward, and then recover. 

’’Hit him, by heavenJ” be growled, re- 
newing the pursuit. But despite Leslie’s 
wiping, the Cyclops was gaining. Terror 
urged him to greater speed. And then the 
rushing horsemen caugjbt up with Leslie. 
Hernandez yelled, Leslie turned, saw an 
unmounted mustang, and swung himself 
into the saddle as the cavalcade swept 
past him. He booted his horse into the 
press of the peoas. 

’’Gangway!” he shouted, charging 
through. 

The calico mustang was swift. Leslie 
forged into the lead, Hernandez follow- 
ing in his trace. 'They were gaining; and 


the peons, seeing the marauder in full 
flight, were yelling and shooting. Leslie 
turned in the saddle. 

"Cut that out, you damn' foolsl” he 
yelled,. "Hold your fire! You’ll kill the 
girl!” 

But there was no controlling their ex- 
ultant wrath. They mistook his shout for 
an exhortation to fire faster and ride 
harder. Jets of dust rose white in the 
moonlight, and lead sizzled dismayingly 
from every side. 

"Block ’em, Arturo! For hell’s sweet 
sake, block ’em while I loop around and 
flank the beast so I can plug him!” yelled 
Leslie. "They’ll kill her!” 

Hernandez cursed wrathfully, reined 
his horse to its haunches and wheeled 
about as Leslie, sweeping to the flank and 
clear of the spray of le^, leaned across 
his horse’s neck, leveled his pistol, and 
blasted a screaming streak of slugs at the 
monster. ’The beast bellowed, hounded 
erratically, dropped its victim, and settled 
down to run at a terrific pace. 'Ihey were 
nearing the rocky outcropping at the base 
of the foothills. The Cyclops had the 
advantage now. Horses would go down 
like nine-pins in that treacherous surface. 
Leslie booted his mustang forward, belted 
it across the hindquarters with the barrel 
of his smoking revolver, and as the 
Cyclops bounded from the cover of one 
gigantic boulder toward the shelter of die 
next, Leslie wheeled his beast for a broad- 
side shot. 

But as his finger contracted «ai the 
trigger, he fell: a searing stab ife hfe 
shoulder. His shot went wild. Aad then 
his horse faltered, missed a stride, and 
crumpled in a kicking heap, patching 
Leslie to the rocks. As he draggled to 
his feet, the yelling cavalcade dos^ in, 
and reined to a halt. 

Don Bart’s fall had sapped their en- 
thusiasm. And before Le^e could com- 
mandeer a horse, he heard Hmumdez 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATL 


ydling from (he rear, TTie peons wheeled 
about. 

*• jugheads!” Leslie 

cursed. He knew that before he could 
get a mount and resume the pursuit, the 
Cyclops would be safely in its lair. Then 
he remembered the sturdy mustang that 
had carried him to a fall. He retrieved 
his pistol to put the beast out of its 
misery. But as he turned, he saw the 
horse was motionless. Slightly to the rear 
of the shoulder was a round, black spot: 
a bullet hole. And oozing from the other 
side was a dark pool of blood. He knew 
then that his horse had been shot from 
under him. 

"Pacheco, by heaven!" muttered Leslie 
as he set out on focrf to join the group 
that had gathered about Hernandez. 
"And when I get a quiet word with 


M aria hbrnandes:, though bruised, 
shaken and hysterical, was none the 
worse for her terri^ing experience. 

"Mount up, Arturo!” said Leslie. Then 
he swung the disheveled girl up to the 
saddle in front of her brother. That done, 
he mounted a horse that Pedro had taken 
from one of the mozos, and joined his 
friend. Blauvdt was at Hernandez’s left, 
but Leslie had thus far seen no sign of 
Pacheco. Something was off color; bat 
Leslie bad to adnat that one of tJws ex* 
cited mczot could have fired a wild shot. 

Leslie "thwefore deckled to hold his 
peace until farther investigation would 
justify an accusation. Moreover, he had 
stumbled across a query that was even 
more baffling: why had the invading 
monster made its second unprecedented 
attack on the house, and why had it 
picked Maria Hernandez? Pure diance, 
he admitted, was a logical answer; and 
that would have been acceptable had it 


5S9! 

not been for one detail he had noted as he 
had gathered the girl in his anas to lift 
her to the saddle: knotted to a strand of 
her streaming black hair was a tuft of 
some pungent, aromatic herb. And while 
the odor was not unpleasant, it was cer- 
tainly not one which a dty-hred girl 
would favor as a scent, and least of all 
employ in such primitive form. 

"Oh, by the way, Miss Hernandez, ” 
was Leslie’s casual remark, "do you find 
mosquitos troublesome out here?” 

She eyed him quizzically, then re- 
garded her bare feet and arms, laughed, 
and said, "Why, no, of course not But 
vdiatever makes you think of laosquitos, 
at a time like this?” 

"I was just wondering,” evaded Leslie. 
Maria, he concluded, had certainly not 
tied that tuft of aromatic herbs t© her hair 
to discourage mosquitos. And the® Leslie 
addressed Don Arturo: 

"Tm sure I winged the bea* at least 
once, I think that if we start a little 
before daybreak, we can trade it to its lair 
by following the blood splashes." 

^’Bueno,” Hernandez repliecL "And 
once we smoke it out, there wHl be an 
end to Sefior Pacheco’s generous offers.” 

"Hmmm , , , so you think he’s behind 
it?” 

"Quien sabe? Its depredations certainly 
favor him, though that may ptave tioth- 
ing after all.” Then, feeling tbit be had 
overstepped himself, be turned to Blau- 
vdt and said, "Se^or el D 0 mr, be 
fdeased to forget that carcl«s remstk. I 
wtSEoid not for anything do Paidieoo an 
injustice. And I trust that you have made 
sufficient observations in the interests of 
science? Or perhaps you would like to 
accompany us on the hunt?” 

"It would be a rare privilege,” declared 
Blauvdt. "In fact, I would insist. I 
would even like to capture the beast alive. 
It would be a rare acquisition for a zoo 
or museum.” 


590 


WEIRD TALES 


I EStiE and Hernandez accompanied 
> Maria to her room. Sehora Gomez, 
they learned, had not been injured as seri- 
ously as she had said; her arm was but 
wreoched, and not broken. But Leslie 
was more interested in the now familiar 
aroma that pervaded the room occupied 
by Maria and her ancient duenna. 

"Miss Hernandez,” said Leslie in a low 
voice, as he plucked a strand of the girl’s 
dark hair and drew it forward so that she 
could see it. "I have an excellent reason 
for asking you an odd question: why do 
you this tuft of herbs in your hair?” 

“Why — why, good Lord, Don Bart — 
who put it there? I surely didn’t.” 

"I thought not,” was Leslie’s comment 
*'Say nothing about it. But take it off, 
right now. I begin to see why you were 
selected by the monster. This strange, 
pungent odor marked you in the dark,” 
And before Maria or her brother could 
comment, Leslie was striding down the 
hall toward Pacheco’s room. He was cer- 
tain tfiat the inhuman ogre had human 
devfltsliness to aid him; but Leslie’s wrath 
fled as he kicked the door open and 
played his flashlight into the darkness. 

He had half expected to find that 
Padbeco had fled; but the spectacle that 
confronted Leslie left him dazed and hor- 
riied. Pacheco, sprawled crosswise in his 
dsordered bed, lay face up and drenched 
with blood. His throat had been gouged 
out ns though gigantic, iron fingers had 
torn loose a handful of flesh. 

"Hernandez! Good heaven, look at 
th&l” diouted Leslie. 

Blaaveit and the Mexican came run- 
ning. 

'*Madre de CfiitoP muttered Hernan- 
dez, a-ossing hirasdf. "And to think that 
I suspected hira of this villainy. But how 
d« yeu account — - — ” 

■‘At the best,” interposed Blauvelt, 
"we can no more than guess. But it 
seems that the beast killed Pacheco, Th«i, 


startled — it would be timid, you recol- 
lect, on account of our having pursued it 
earlier in the evening — it left before 
drinking the blood of its victim, and on 
its way out, it seized Miss Hernandez, 
whom it hoped to devour at its leisure.” 

"Reasonable,” conceded Leslie. "Or 
else it's another example of the creature’s 
diabolical dexterity. You remember it 
raided my room in the tavern at Xoatl, 
and almost at the same time, it killed one 
of Don Arturo’s peons, miles away, de- 
viously, there must be more than one of 
the monsters.” 

"Precisely, Mr. Leslie,” said Blauvelt. 
"And that substantiates my contentions to 
the effect that there is a nest of them. 
A tribe, perhaps, of man-eating Cyclops. 
They may for centuries have been im- 
prisoned in some inaccessible valley in the 
Xoatl range, but now, due to the shifting 
of the terrain, caused by the recent earth- 
quake, an exit has been provided for 
them.” 

"And,” muttered Hernandez, "thqr 
will make this hacienda a deli^tful 
place.” 

"Anyhow,” said Leslie, "the beast 
hasn’t eaten tonight. Hunger wiU drive 
it out again, soon, despite its hot recep- 
tion. I’m going back on post and stand 
guard until it’s time to renew the pursuit. 
'The rest of you may as well get a bit of 
sleep.” 

Shortly before the first signs of dawn, 
Leslie heard a door slam; and before he 
could challenge the shapeless figure in 
the gloom, he heard a familiar voice say- 
ing, '"This is Blauvelt, Leslie. I’m not 
taking any chances on your resuming the 
chase alone, and it’ll soon be time to set 
out.” 

"Fair «iough, Doctor,” agreed Leslie. 
"And the more I think of it, the more 
I’m convinced that a couple of us qui^ly 
taddng the beast on foot will be a lot 
more successful than ttie Mexican version 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATE 


591' 


of a steeplechase. With all the yelling 
mozos, and one horse shot out from 
under me already, I’d prefer to be cer- 
tain that the danger is in front and not 
behind me,” 

Blauvelt chuckled and asked, "When 
do you start?" 

"Right now. As quickly as I can wake 
Hernandez and tell him to stand watch 
during our absence. I’ve got my flash- 
light, but you may as well bring yours, 
and a revolver." 

A few minutes later they set out on 
foot in the g«ieral direction of the last 
unsuccessful pursuit. The carcass of the 
calico mustang, stripped of saddle and 
bridle, marked the where the chase 
had ended. Circling about, and playing 
the beams of tbdr flashlights on the 
rocky slope, they soon picked up traces 
of the monster’s footprints, and splashes 
of blood spilled by Leslie’s long-range 
shot. 

"Not bleeding heavily,” said Leslie, 
"but his exertions will make the flow 
continue,” 

H e led the way up the slope. The 
general direction of the trail was 
leading toward an arroyo. Rocks recently 
kncxked loose from their bed of earth 
showed where the Qrclops had crossed 
with two prodigious leaps. Fifty yards 
farther, a h^dprint, and greasewc^ half 
uprooted, guided LesHc. 

"He stumbled. Pretty wdl corked, 
Leslie diagnosed. 'Too bad someone 
plugged my pinto. Hell of a fine marfcs- 
man in the crowd, only bis gun wasn't 
pointed the right way!” 

And then the lay of the knd Be^ta to 
aid Leslie. A cleft in the hills widened 
out into a small valley just beyond; and 
the first agns of daybre^ made the 
tracking faster, Blauvdt, tumbling and 
pufl&ng, had to cons«ve his breath and 
desist from scientific comment.: But 


the end of another two odd toiler Leslie 
halted. 

"Get your wind, Blauvelt,” he said in 
a tense voice, "And give your hand a 
chance to steady a bit. We may both have 
to do some fart shooting when we rout 
him out. He’s big as a box car, JBid Lord 
knows how many .45’s he may SMUnilate 
before he takes the covmt.” 

'*Ach, so you ha£F dee game tracked 
down?” wondered the scientist, lapsing 
into a thick accent. Leslie’s suppressed 
excitement was ccaitagious, 

"Yes. See that dark blot half-way up 
the hillside? A cave, sure as Lord 
made little apples. And bis prmts head 
thrt way.” 

"Mmm , , , that is so,” admitted Blau- 
velt. "And now vot?’* 

"Smoke him Out! Let’s go!” snapped 
Leslie, anticipating and blocking a r^ec- 
tive pause in the interest of sciencs. Blau- 
velt scrambled after him. As he scaled 
the slope, Leslie pocketed his ftartstlightc 
The tracks were plain in the gri^ dawn, 

"Easy,” he cautioned in a whisper. 
&)undlessly they covered the kst fifty 
yards, picking their way among bleached 
bones scattered near the entnmce of a 
blackly gaping cavern from the mmith of 
which a human skull grinned bida)us 
warning of the cannibal who lurked 
somevrf>ere in the honeycombed heart of 
the hill. 

Leslie halted at the l^p of the e|iaaing, 
and grimaced wryly at ^ dbamel rteoik 
ttiat fikered from tiae gloom. He heard a 
vague stirring and an ^thmatlc wheez- 
ing, but the decef^ve acoustics of the 
cave distorted the sound and roWbed it of 
direc±ion; and Leslie, thou^ straining his 
eyes, could not pick the monster’s bulk 
from the enveloping gloona, despite the 
steadily increasing brightness without. He 
drew and cocked his .45, and crouched, 
ready to fire; but ttie odor of death, and 


59^2 


WEIRD TALES 


that caaincms wheezing snore, shook even 
Leslie's iron nerves, 

"Hell with this waiting’” he muttered. 
ThoB, glancing back for an instant, he 
whimpered, "Pass me your flashlight. 
Mine’s a bit dim.” 

Bkovelt’s face was gray, and his hand 
trendfled as he fumbled for the light, 

Leslie jerked his eyes back into line, 
and with his left hand reached over his 
shoulder. The monster might be alert 
and lurking, warned by its beast-instinct 
that danger was present. 

As Leslie’s fingers closed on the nick- 
eled cylinder, he felt the transmitted 
tracBor of the scientist’s hand And then, 
an instant too late, he sensed that peril 
was behind him as well as in the dark- 
ness ahead. A numbing blow crushed 
his Stetson down to his ears, and a vigor- 
ous thrust from the rear sent him pitching 
headtong into the gaping mouth of the 
catrera. Leslie, though conscious, was 
mooMntarily paralyzed by the impact that 
would have brained him but for the cush- 
icnusg of his hat. His sluggish, instinc- 
tive effort to break his fall resulted in 
nothing but the loss of his revolver. He 
crashed against a ledge, dropped another 
yard into blackness, and then thumped 
sfumviing to a gently sloping, rocky floor. 
In this tumbling descent, his second re- 
vBlver, loosened for action, slid from its 
holster and clattered into the gloom, 

Leslie’s involuntary yell of dismay 
echoed in the cavern, and masked the 
rattle of rocks dislodged by Blauvelt’s 
pCecipitate flight down the hillside. Leslie 
lidced his dry lips, gritted his teeth, and 
forced his numbed body to obey; but as 
he rtmggled to his fed:, be beard a hoarse 
gftmt and a pondeioas stirring in the 
darkness at his right. Before he could 
jerk his fiasfali^it into play and locate 
one of his revolvers, a bestial bellcTwing 
shock the cavern, and didodged frag- 
meots ©f rock clattered to the floor. 


Heavy feet shuffled, and then a single 
monstrous eye glowed phosphorescently 
from the gloom. It was too late for 
Leslie to collect himself and attempt to 
scramble toward the mouth of the cave, 
some two yards above the floor. He saw 
that his retreat was cut off. 

A gigantic, scarcely human shape was 
for an instant silhouetted against the in- 
creasing outer brilliance. ’Then it lurched 
forward, snififlng and mewling and whin- 
ing. Leslie knew that it had scented him. 
’The blazing eye shifted, and as it picked 
him out of the shadows, in blind desper- 
ation Leslie groped for a stone, and 
hurled it. 

’The monster charged. Leslie ducked, 
felt sharp talons rip his coat; and then a 
second flailing sweep, missing its grasp, 
sent him crashing against the cavern wall. 
He flattened to the floor as the Cydops 
wheeled, and before the enraged, hungry 
beast could crush him, Leslie shot him- 
self forward between the monster’s legs. . 
His hands seized another jagged rock, re- 
covered, and hurled the missile, catdiing 
the brute full in the chest as it turned to 
dose in. ’The impact for an instant 
diecked the charge, but Leslie knew that 
the end was near. His head was split- 
ting, his breath came in sharp, agonized 
gasps, and the veins at his temples were 
distended like fire hose. He knew that 
he could not possibly dash toward the 
entrance and clamber up the steep, 
shelved ascent, nor could he reach the 
revolver that gleamed dully near the 
opening. One more rush, and 

Leslie whirled, tripped On the half- 
stripped thigh-bone of one of the victims 
whose fate he was about to share. The 
beast lunged; but instead of dod^ng, 
Leslie plun^d headlong into the narrow 
crevice he had just perceived. He felt 
the monster’s nails dig into his ankle, 
kicked dear, before the fingers could 

W.T.— 5 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATL 


593 


close, and wormed his way into the cleft, 
a yard beyond the enemy’s reach. 

F or the moment he was safe, for the 
Cyclops could not force his bulk into 
the crevice; but he crouched at the mouth 
of the opening, glaring at his trapped 
prey, and fingering the thwarting tongues 
of rock. In the dim light Leslie for the 
first time had a clear view of the Cyclops, 
and shivered as he regarded the creature 
he had fought in the darkness. The en- 
tire body was deep purple, with a spongy 
texture like the comb and wattles of a 
rooster. Beneath the single eye that 
glared from the low forehead were two 
slits, vestigial nostrils; but the crowning 
horror was the sphincter-like mouth that 
twitched and drooled saliva as it alter- 
nately covered and exposed four long 
gleaming fangs that would at one bite 
slash a man’s throat to ribbons. 

'That twitching, hideous mockery of a 
mouth, that hungry, infantile mewling 
for Leslie’s blood told him why the vic- 
tims had been drained dry of their vital 
fluid; and as he struggled to keep his 
stomach under control, he sensed the rea- 
son for the beast’s blood-drinking: its 
lower jaw was so undeveloped that it 
could not masticate solid food. 

"And it must have been a sub-human 
monster, like this one,” he said, forcing 
his eyes away from the sickening, thirsty 
mouth, "that originated the Cyclops 
legend of ancient days. Blauvelt was 
right.” Then with a grim thin smile, 
"And if I ever get out of here alive. I’ll 
give that boy a demonstration in the 
interests of science!” 

He was certain that Blauvelt had not 
struck him in a blind panic induced by 
the proximity of the monster. Blauvelt 
had deliberately thrown him to the beast; 
but Leslie had no time to ponder on the 
doctor’s motives. 'The Cyclops, though 
bafiled, had not given up. He was now 
W. T.— 6 


wrenching and tugging at the rocks that 
obstructed the mouth of Leslie’s refuge. 

A fragment separated. It was not 
large enough materially to widen the 
opening, but the beast took hope; and 
Leslie, recoiling, wondered whether the 
giant would be intelligent enough to use 
a lever, or a chunk of rock as an im- 
provised hammer. 

"Lucky he’s too dumb to throw rocks 
at me,” he muttered as he watched the 
expansion and contraction of the brute’s 
incredible muscles. "But killing me’s no 
good, unless he can reach me. I’m just 
groceries to him.” 

Another fragment broke loose. 

"God!” muttered Leslie, stunned by 
the explosion of energy. 

As he watched the gradual march of 
doom, he became aware of a curiously 
familiar, pungent odor. It was undeni- 
ably a breath of that same odd herb 
which someone had tied to Maria’s hair. 
Leslie hastily dug into his pockets. He 
found a small packet. He had not previ- 
ously noted its odor on account of the 
sickening stench of the unconsumed re- 
mains of the monster’s victims, but now 
his nostrils were becoming accustomed 
to it. 

"Hmmm . . . someone tagged me with 
this so the beast would be sure and pick 
me, even in the dark . . . and in the ex- 
citement of tracking, I wouldn’t notice 
it . . . that was either Blauvelt, or — who 
else?” 

He tossed the packet past the Cyclops. 
The monster abandoned his efforts, 
picked up the aromatic herb, pawed it 
like a kitten mauling a ball of catnip, 
gurgled and drooled as it thrust the 
packet into its mouth. But the distraction 
did not give Leslie a chance to dash for 
his revolvers; and for the instant, he was 
too wrathful to have ventured a break. 

"The !” he cursed. 

"Planted that stuff on Maria so the beast 


594 


WEIRD TALES 


would get her! It goes for that stuff 
like a dog for anise, or a cat for valerian.” 

And then the Cyclops, mumbling and 
drooling, returned to his task with re- 
newed vigor, as though stimulated by the 
herb. Grunting, heaving, clawing, it 
tugged at the tongue of rock which was 
the key to Leslie’s refuge. Once that 
yielded, the jig was up. And the beast 
seemed to sense, finally, that he was on 
the right track. 

A cold sweat cropped out on Leslie as 
he watched the rock perceptibly yielding. 
A dozen men could never have budged it, 
but the Cyclops could concentrate his 
strength. That one fantastic eye now 
glowed with triumph. 'That eye 

And then Leslie tore a page from an 
ancient book. Thirty centuries ago, a 
man had thwarted a similar monster. 
Leslie had no sharpened stake to char 
to a red heat; but the principle was good. 
He jerked his flashlight from his pocket, 
extracted the three cells, broke them open 
against the sharp rocks. He gathered the 
corrosive chemicals, powdered carbon and 
sal ammoniac moistened with acid, and 
crumbled them to granules. 

The rock lurched an inch as the mon- 
ster’s mighty back arched. The Cyclops 
grunted, looked up — but before he could 
renew his prodigious assault, Leslie 
bounded forward, hurling the double 
handful of chemicals squarely into the 
ferociously blazing eye. 

The blinded beast howled with pain 
and clawed his burning orb. Leslie 
cleared the crevice, dodged a flailing, 
sightless sweep, crashed against the wall 
of the cavern, and leaped for his revolver. 
The Cyclops turned, but his charge was 
erratic. Leslie’s .45 crackled like a ma- 
chine-gun. The Cyclops staggered, roared, 
and lurched forward, bleeding but venge- 
ful and unweakened. Leslie whirled, but 
missed his footing. A stunning blow 
knocked him into a comer; but as the 


monster followed, Leslie’s gun snapped 
into line. For an instant he held his fire. 
Only two cartridges remained, and they 
had to count. . . . 

"Smack-smack!” The beast halted, 
tottered, and chunked ponderously to the 
floor, drilled through the eye and brain. 

"By heaven, I should have brought a 
cannon!” muttered Leslie, attempting to 
rise. But his knees were weak, and he 
crawled to the mouth of the cavern, 
where he retrieved his second revolver. 
Then he slumped in a heap, staring at the 
hulk that lay huddled and still twitching 
when it should be stone-dead. 

“T^T ERVES like a turtle,” said Leslie, 
-L^ wondering if peril was finally 
over. Then, as his strength returned, he 
pulled himself to the first shelf. But be- 
fore he could hoist himself over the lip 
of the cavern, he heard a voice, and drew 
back to listen. 

"Hombrecito! Hombrecito!” called a 
woman. 

"What little man can she be looking 
for.^” wondered Leslie. 

He peeped over the lip of the entrance. 
Lizeta was a few yards from the cave. 
Near her were two earthenware ollas ap- 
parently full of milk. And then he saw 
Blauvelt dashing up the slope. Leslie 
cursed, cocked his .45, then controlled his 
wrath. 

"Hombrecito!” repeated Lizeta, as 
though hailing someone in the cave. 
Leslie was perplexed, and then the hid- 
eous truth dawned on him. 

"Never mind feeding him,” shouted 
Blauvelt. Lizeta started as though 
prodded with hot irons. 

"Oh — Sehor el Doctor! But why 
not? He is hungry. He will come out 
and Don Bart will kill him.” 

"He’s not hungry,” was Blauvelt’s re- 
tort. "And Don Bart won’t kill anyone. 
Now that your hombrecito has attended 


THE CYCLOPS OF XOATL 


595 


to that meddler, Hernandez will sell out, 
muy pronto.” 

"And then ” 

"Don’t worry, Lizeta — you’ll be the 
new mistress of the hacienda. All I want 
is the old silver mine. Now hurry back 
to the house, before someone misses you. 
You fool, didn’t I tell you ’’ 

"But I thought ’’ 

And then Leslie emerged from the 
cavern, grim, white-faced, his eyes cold 
as sword-points. His pistols were bol- 
stered. 

"Wait a minute, Blauvelt!’’ he chal- 
lenged. 

Lizeta screamed. Blauvelt stood 
nailed in his tracks. His face had be- 
come pistachio-green in the early morn- 
ing light. He tried to speak and gesture, 
but his mouth moved soundlessly. 

"Draw your gun, Blauvelt,” Leslie 
commanded. "The gun you knocked me 
on the head with.” 

"But — what do you mean? 

how ” 

"Draw your gun,” reiterated Leslie. 
"I’ll give you a fair start. I’m too old 
to start killing unarmed men. Except 
for that hombrecHo in the cave, and that 
wasn’t a man ” 

Lizeta’s comprehension was instant. 
Her scream of grief and anguish shook 
Leslie’s frayed nerves. The distraction 
was but an instant, yet that instant was 
deadly. Blauvelt saw his chance. His 
revolver jerked from its holster and into 
line. Lizeta leaped raging toward Leslie. 
All in a confusing whirl — and then Two- 
Gun Bart reached for his gun. He made 
it by a hair. The prolonged roar of 
Leslie’s .45 blended with the crackle of 
Blauvelt’s weapon. 

Blauvelt bent in the middle as though 
he had run into a waist-high fence, con- 
vulsively jerked a second shot, and col- 
lapsed like a Japanese lantern. It was not 
until a moment later that Leslie saw that 


Lizeta had not tripped, but that Blau- 
velt’s wild shot had struck her as she 
rushed Leslie. As he knelt beside the 
comely mestiza, Leslie saw- that she was 
not fatally wounded; but this he kept to 
himself. 

"Better tell me what it’s about, Lizeta,” 
he urged. "Why ” 

"Get a priest,” she moaned. 

"Too late,” was Leslie’s grim retort; 
but even before she explained, he sensed 
the tragedy that Lizeta was about to re- 
veal. Then he heard a clatter of hoofs, 
and saw Hernandez galloping up the 
draw. Maria and a pair of mozos fol- 
lowed. They dismounted in time to 
catch the essentials of Lizeta’s explana- 
tion. 

"He was my son,” she said. "Don 
Romualdo — Pacheco — was his father. 
Eighteen years ago — when I was a girl — 
he was born in this cave. Madre de Dios! 
— It was God’s punishment for our sin. 
But he was mine. What could I do? 
Abandon him? He had no jaws to eat 
solid food. So I fed him milk for a 
dozen years. But once he killed a 
chicken and sucked its blood. He liked 
it, the blood. Then — he was enormous 
for his age — he learned to kill larger 
animals — then people — and I could not 
always carry milk to the cave.” 

"Cristo del Grao!” exclaimed the hor- 
rified Hernandez. "I wondered why she 
set out with two ollas so early this morn- 
ing. So we followed her. And 
that ” 

"But why ” resumed Leslie. 

Lizeta anticipated his question, and ex- 
plained in a steadier voice, "If Don Ar- 
turo kept the hacienda, my hombrecito 
would sooner or later be hunted down 
and killed. So I helped the Doctor 
Blauvelt, who said that the earthquake 
had uncovered a new, rich vein in the 
old silver mine. But I did not kill 
Pacheco. I often wanted to, but I 


596 


.WEIRD TALES 


didn’t. That was Blauvelt, who did not 
want Pacheco to buy back the hacienda. 
Me, I would have been glad, even if he 
would not have given me the house 
where I used to be young and beautiful, 
years ago.” 

The grimness faded from Leslie’s face. 
He gestured to Hernandez and Maria. As 
they withdrew, he whispered in Lizeta’s 
ear, "Tell me why you put that strange- 
smelling herb in Dona Maria’s hair. You 
have been punished long enough — I will 
say nothing to anyone.” 

"Because she was young and beautiful, 
and I feared that Blauvelt would rob me 
of the house he promised me, and let 
her — — ” 

"Forget it. There’s a good chance 
that you’ll live,” said Leslie. Then, hail- 
ing the mozos, "Carry her back to the 
house.” 

“T>ut how could such an awful brute 
be born to any human woman?” 
was Hernandez’s query as Leslie joined 
him and Maria. "Satan, and not Pacheco, 
was its father — or some beast ” 

Leslie shook his head. 

"If Blauvelt had lived to explain, he 
could do better than I can. This Cyclops 
is an extreme example of a rare but not 
imknown abnormality. And as nearly as 
I can mangle the Britannica — under the 
heading of 'monster’ — it is an example 
of teratology, caused by a deficiency in 
formative power in the embryo, and re- 
sulting in what the doctors call 'imper- 
fect separation of symmetrical parts.’ 

"And now I can see the fine hand of 


Blauvelt from the beginning. That poor 
devil of a waiter we put in my room in 
the tavern at Xoatl was not killed by the 
Cyclops, but by Blauvelt or a native ac- 
complice, thinking of course he was 
butchering me and putting the fear of 
God into you. 

"And Pacheco’s death was similarly 
motivated. Blauvelt, having rediscovered 
a fresh outcropping of silver in the old 
mine, was without doubt prowling 
around before we met him in Xoatl, and 
had both opportunity and motive for 
trying to cast suspicion on Pacheco and 
thwart his attempted repurchase of the 
hacienda. Now let’s get going, I need 
a drink.” ( 

But before Leslie could swing into the 
saddle. Dona Maria caught him by the 
arm. i 

"Oh, Don Bart — I was too frightened 
and dazed to realize, last night, what a 
horrible fate you saved me from — ^that 

your shot made the beast drop me ” 

And before Leslie could think of a 
suitable Spanish assurance to the effect 
that it was less than nothing, Maria’s 
arms encircled his neck, and her lips 
sought his mouth. 

"Holy smoke, Maria!” he finally 
gasped, catching his breath. "One more 

like that — anyway, your brother ” 

"Theenk nothing of it, Don Bart,” as- 
sured Hernandez, "Eef there is any 
chance that thees weel become a habit, I 
weel continue looking the other way, and 
ride like wan hell to the house to equip 
the excellent Senora Gomez weeth a 
blindfold.” 



“A man, doomed to assume the shape ol a savage wolf.' 


Vhe \ 


K 


Oman at Loon Point 


By AUGUST W. DERLETH and MARK SCHORER 


What was that snarling thing that growled and cowered in the lonely lodge in 
the woods, guarded by a hysterical girl, as the long howl of a 
timber wolf sounded outside in the forest? 


I MET Laramie Shaw not long after 
my arrival at my father’s hunting- 
lodge at the base of Loon Point in 
Upper Michigan last autumn. Three days 
after, to be exact. Even before that, I had 


heard that long-deserted Loon Lodge was 
inhabited, and the natives of Lacroit vil- 
lage, south of my father’s cabin, had spo- 
ken of the Shaws — “that Laramie, who 
walks as if she’s scared of something,” 

m 


598 


WEIRD TALES 


and "that young man, Jim, who’s gettin’ 
sicker and sicker instead of better, as he 
ought.’’ And they spoke of how the 
Shaws had never been seen either hunt- 
ing or fishing, but kept to their lodge, 
where they had been ever since spring. 
The inhabitants of Loon Lodge were, in 
fact, a local mystery. 

I had been walking along the shore of 
the Point most of that afternoon, and ad- 
mit hoping I might meet at least one of 
the Shaws. I had kept to the fairly well- 
defined path leading along the lake shore, 
and had stepped off it only for a few mo- 
ments to examine a dead bird on the 
beach, when I heard quick footsteps be- 
hind me. I swung around and saw the 
girl coming out of the forest. She caught 
sight of my movement and stopped, in- 
stinctively taking a step backward. Her 
eyes were dark and startled and filled 
with sudden fear. Her cheeks were 
flushed with the wind, but the rest of her 
face, except for her large and brooding 
mouth, was astonishingly pale. She wore 
an old hunting- jacket, and beneath this 
a plain black dress, the skirt of which 
was flapping around her legs in the wind. 
In an instant her eyes dropped, the fear 
went out of them, and she passed me 
without a nod, despite my raising my cap 
to her. I watched her until she vanished 
around a bend not far away. 

Why had she been afraid? 

That night I went into the village to 
find out more about the Shaws. But my 
intentions were side-tracked by a topic 
which, though it had been current for 
some time, was still far more important 
to the natives gathered in the village store 
than the slight mystery of the Shaws. 

For some time the villagers had been 
aware of a wolf in the vicinity. Though 
the animal had appeared but seldom, it 
had made several efforts to attack differ- 
ent natives. It had been shot at, of 
course, and though one woodsman swore 


that he had wounded the beast, it had 
been seen loping about subsequent to the 
shot. Wolves had long been uncommon 
in northern Michigan, and for years in 
the immediate past no wolf had been seen 
near Lacroit. 'The occasion for the recur- 
rence of this oft-discussed topic that even- 
ing was the report that a hunter had 
spied the beast the previous night on 
Loon Point, had, indeed, heard it howl, 
and had shot at it before it had made off 
into the underbrush. Only when the vil- 
lagers had talked themselves out was I 
able to introduce the topic of the Shaws. 

But if they had been disappointed in 
my inability to contribute anything to 
their wolf-lore, I was much more so in 
the scant information they were able to 
give me. No one knew where the Shaws 
had come from, though the majority of 
them thought Chicago. They had arrived 
in late April, both in good health and ex- 
cellent spirits, and had taken the lodge 
for two months, meaning to return to the 
city at the end of that time. It was the 
girl who had started the story of the 
wolf’s presence by arriving in the village 
one morning early for a doctor, saying 
that her brother, who had left Loon 
Lodge just before dawn, had been at* 
tacked and severely lacerated by a wolf. 
The doctor later admitted that the young 
man had certainly been bitten by an ani- 
mal of some kind. 

From that time on the boy was seen no 
more, though before that he had been out 
quite often, usually alone, but sometimes 
with a tramp-like individual who appar- 
ently lived some distance along the iso- 
lated coast above Loon Point. The girl 
came into Lacroit only when it was abso- 
lutely necessary, and struck everyone as 
looking afraid — glancing over her shoul- 
der all the time, in a strained way, and 
nervous. When the two months had 
passed, Laramie Shaw had appeared in 
Lacroit and had taken Loon Lodge indefi- 


THE WOMAN AT LOON POINT 


599 


nitely. That was the substance of what I 
learned. 

Yet I was curiously disturbed by the 
concluding aside of the storekeeper’s wife 
— "Thet Shaw girl used to whistle and 
sing all the time — now she don’t. She 
don’t even smile like she used to. I c’n 
tell you it ain’t a small thing ’ll make a 
woman change like that.” 

W HEN I left Lacroit that night, my 
mind was filled with thoughts of 
the Shaws. The chill autumn wind was 
whistling through the Point’s tall pines, 
and not far away the loons laughed weird- 
ly from the lake. I was in a hurry to 
reach my lodge, now that darkness had 
come down in earnest. The distance I had 
to travel was two miles, and I had gone 
over three-fourths of the way, when I 
heard behind me the distinct sound of 
footsteps. Could — my heart leaped un- 
accountably — could Laramie Shaw have 
been out, in the village, perhaps.^ I 
stopped to wait. Immediately the foot- 
steps stopped, but not before I had heard 
them more distinctly. At the same mo- 
ment I felt myself warned by blind in- 
stinct to press on, and my momentary 
hearing of the walker behind me ac- 
quainted me with the fact that it was no 
human being that followed; for the foot- 
steps were padding, stealthy, and slunk 
through the dry leaves like those of some 
predatory beast. 

I turned and ran wildly for the lodge, 
which was still lost in the blackness 
ahead. I think that perhaps the thing that 
saved me was the presence of a screened 
veranda; for I had no sooner flung my- 
self beyond the screen than I saw two 
eyes glaring balefully at me from the 
path I had just quitted, and when I lit 
one of my lamps and held it aloft, I saw 
the clearly outlined figure of a gigantic 
wolf staring at me from immediately be- 
yond the enclosing screen! As I watched. 


it turned and slunk away into the woods. 

Next morning the wolf had taken a 
secondary place in my mind, and the 
Shaws had again come forward. If my 
curiosity must be satisfied, why not go 
boldly to Loon Lodge and declare myself 
a recent neighbor come to introduce him- 
self? Certainly that seemed much the best 
plan. 

Consequently, I walked to the end of 
the Point that morning. But I knocked 
on the door of Loon Lodge in vain; for 
no one answered. I was certain that one 
of the heavy curtains which still strangely 
covered the windows moved a little, as 
though someone peering out had dis- 
turbed it. Accordingly, I knocked louder; 
still no one replied. I went home more 
curious than before. 

That night, which was overcast by low- 
ering clouds driven across the sky by a 
booming wind, I determined to force a 
meeting with the Shaws. 'The restlessness 
to which I had been a prey since my futile 
visit of the morning had grown so that 
sleep was out of the question. The book 
I tried to read failed to hold my interest; 
I was thinking of Laramie Shaw and her 
frightened eyes, and I saw her face on 
every page I read. I gave up at last, and 
set out for Loon Lodge. 

T he curtains were drawn over the 
windows of the lodge at the end of 
the Point, but I could see that a light 
burned in the cabin; for the curtains were 
frequently broken by slits and tiny holes 
through which light glowed. I moved 
carefully forward, intending to take the 
Shaws by surprize with a sudden assault 
upon their door. But as I passed a win- 
dow I paused. There might be no harm 
in looking momentarily into the room, 
for if I rapped, the light might be put 
out and I might go again unanswered. 

I stooped down and looked into the 
room through a rent in the curtain — and 


600 


WEIRD TALES 


had to clutch at the window-ledge to keep 
from falling back in amazement at what I 
saw within. 

Laramie Shaw was standing in the cen- 
ter of the room, disheveled and dis- 
traught, and before her was an animal 
chained to one wall. For an instant I took 
the animal to be a large and shaggy police 
dog, and then I saw and recognized it for 
what it actually was — a huge timber itwlj! 

I felt immediately that there was some- 
thing deeply wrong about what I saw. 
The brute’s slavering fangs, its struggles 
to escape from the binding cords and 
chain were harmless; for the chain was 
of steel and the cord was extremely stout. 
It was as I looked at the rope that I saw 
how peculiarly the animal was bound — its 
forelegs tied securely to its dhest, the rope 
having been twisted round and round the 
body, though surprizingly loose, despite 
its secureness; its hind legs stretched out 
and tied together, free of its body. The 
position in which this manner of binding 
left the animal was more than strange, 
but even more amazing was the patent 
fact that somehow this ferocious beast 
had been taken alive — and by a woman 
aided solely by a sick brother! 

Abruptly I thought of Jim Shaw. He 
was not in the room. And if he were 
sleeping elsewhere in the cabin, surely it 
was only a miracle that the disturbance 
made by the brute had not awakened 
him. 

Laramie Shaw stepped suddenly away 
from the beast, and leaned weakly against 
the table. Her face came into sight, and 
I saw that her eyes were still haunted by 
that strange look of fear I had first seen 
in the forest. But I saw also a look of 
repugnance that was not loathing, and a 
distinct suggestion of pity for the animal 
at her feet. 

The wolf stirred and began to struggle 
violently. 

At that moment a sound from the 


blackness of the surrounding forest 
broke into my puzzled thoughts, cutting 
through the still weirdly recurring laugh- 
ter of the loons on the lake. It was the 
call of a timber wolf, a long drawn-out 
howl echoing through the woods, and 
from inside Loon Lodge came a feeble 
answer. 

I bent again and looked through the 
rent in the curtain. I saw the wolf strain- 
ing futilely at the binding cords. Laramie 
Shaw stood for a moment waiting; then 
she slumped into a chair and put her head 
in her hands. Her shoulders began to 
shudder — she was weeping! 

The call of the wolf sounded again 
from the forest. I stood for a moment 
undecided. If the beast threatened to at- 
tack me I had an ideal excuse for getting 
into Loon Lodge, but I might be forced 
to break my way in. I had little time to 
consider, however, for the wolf was rap- 
idly coming nearer, though I could now 
tell that it was approaching from the op- 
posite side of the lodge. Abruptly I 
dodged away from the cabin and found 
the path, alo^g which I ran, hoping that 
the animal would not follow. 

Its cries receded into the distance, and 
I gathered that the animal was still at 
Loon Lodge. Could it be its mate that 
the Shaws had caught? 

I HAD almost reached my cabin, still run- 
ning easily along the path, when I 
tripped and went sprawling. For a mo- 
ment I lay motionless; then I turned cau- 
tiously and lit my cigarette-lighter. I had 
tripped over the recently killed carcass of a 
rabbit. Its throat had* been ripped open 
and its blood had evidently been drunk by 
the killer; for there were but few drops 
on the leaves covering the path. I thought 
at once of a weasel, but certainly no wea- 
sel would have ripped open the rabbit’s 
throat as this had been torn. Was it pos- 
sible that the wolf had paused on its way 


THE WOMAN AT LOON POINT 


601 


' to Loon Lodge to kill this rabbit? But 
wolves, I knew, eat their kill. 

I went on to my lodge, now doubly 
welcome after the strange experience I 
had undergone. 

Despite my original intention of airing 
the Loon Lodge mystery in Lacroit next 
day, I said nothing about what I had seen. 
After a short stay in the village, I made 
my way back along the trail into the for- 
est. I had gone perhaps half the distance 
to my lodge when I saw before me on the 
path an emaciated-looking man. He was 
obviously waiting for me, since he kept 
his eyes fixed on me. 

As I came closer, I saw that he was 
shabbily dressed, though it was apparent 
that his clothes had at one time been 
good. His face held me — deep, black 
eyes, somehow seeming afire, pale mouth, 
bloodless cheeks, long stubble on his chin 
and neck, a heavy mustache on his upper 
lip. He took a step toward me as I came 
on, and I saw that he walked with a slight 
limp. 

"I believe you’re the young man who 
has the lodge at the base of the Point?" 
he said curtly, as I came up to him. 

Ij, ’Tm Jack Durfrey, yes,” I said. 

' "I want a word with you,” he went on. 
His voice had a suggestion of menace 
in it. 

^ "Walk along?” I asked. 

He shook his head. "It’ll take only a 
moment,” he went on. "I’ve seen you 
about Loon Lodge, and I happen to know 
that your attentions are unwelcome to the 
young lady there. I’ll thank you to keep 
away from the Shaws’ cabin hereafter.” 

For a moment I saw red. I controlled 
myself with an effort and shot back, 
"You? Who the devil are you to give 
orders to me?” 

"My name,” he said in a flat, disdain- 
ful voice, "is Henri Letellier. And that 
doesn’t mean anything to you — and 


won’t, unless I find you near Loon Lodge 
again.” 

What prevented me from striking out 
immediately I don’t know. Before I could 
reply, Letellier had stepped back into the 
dense undergrowth fringing the trail. I 
took a tentative step forward, thought 
better of it, and went on my way, in 
mounting anger. 

Almost at once after my return to my 
cabin, I made my way to Loon Lodge and 
hid myself in the dense bushes around 
the clearing in which the lodge stood. 
The cabin was still tightly closed, but a 
thin trail of smoke ascending from the 
chimney gave evidence of life. 

I HAD not long to wait, for suddenly the 
door opened and a thin young man 
emerged into the sunlight. He was wear- 
ing trousers and an old dressing-gown, 
which was swinging open. His face was 
pale and bloodless, and his lips were un- 
healthily gray. His eyes were dark and 
shone in such a fashion that I could not 
doubt that he was seriously ill. He stood 
for a moment leaning against the house, 
leaving the door ajar. Then he began to 
move around the lodge, and in a few mo- 
ments he was lost to sight behind the 
building. 

Then the door swung wide again, and 
Laramie Shaw came out. She looked 
much as she had looked the day before, 
except that she seemed more wan, and 
her eyes seemed darker. The morning 
wind from the lake blew at her black 
hair, which fell straight to her shoulders. 
With a slight intake of breath I noticed 
how beautiful she was. She stood looking 
uneasily around her, then suddenly called 
in a low, quavering voice, "Jim! Oh, 
Jim!” 

The young man came from behind the 
cabin, and the expression of relief on 
Laramie Shaw’s face was immediate. She 
looked uneasily around, past him, her 


602 


WEIRD TALES 


eyes embracing the encroaching woods; 
then she stood aside until her brother en- 
tered the cabin again. She followed him. 

I crouched in hiding for a few mo- 
ments more. Then I ventured into the 
clearing and approached the cabin. There 
was no reply to my assault on the door of 
Loon Lodge, but I saw the curtains quiver 
and knew that I was being watched. 

For some time I stood undecided on 
the stoop, not only mystified but also 
slightly angered; then I doubled back and 
hid once more in the dense foliage, where 
I sat and watched the lodge. 

It was some time before Laramie Shaw 
appeared. She opened the door cautious- 
ly and looked out across the clearing. For 
a few moments she stood framed in the 
doorway, her head thrown back, her eyes 
still suspicious. Then she went quickly 
around to the side of the lodge and began 
to gather kindling wood. 

I left my hiding-place and strode rap- 
idly across to the cabin. Before the wo- 
man had time to start, I stood waiting, and 
there was no escape for her then. Slowly, 
rather thoughtfully, she advanced toward 
the door, a query on her face. 

"You’re Miss Shaw.^’’ I asked. 

She nodded and looked at me without 
emotion, waiting. 

'Tm Jack Durfrey, your nearest neigh- 
bor.” 

"Yes,” she said. 

She was obviously reluctant to talk. I 
waited insistently, determined that she 
would speak to me. Presently I said, "I’ve 
been up to call before. Perhaps you were 
out, but I don’t think so. If it had not 
been for someone who’s apparently your 
guardian rather rudely warning me away 
from this place, I wouldn’t have come 
again.” 

Suddenly she took interest. She looked 
sharply at me. "Guardian,” she repeated. 

"Was it Her face paled, suddenly, 

inexplicably. 


"Henri Letellier,” I said. "That’s what 
he called himself.” 

She stepped back, dropping the wood 
she had gathered. For a moment I 
thought she was going to faint. A low 
moan escaped her lips. In a moment she 
had composed herself and was facing me 
again, defiantly. 

Then I tried direct attack. "I want to 
help you. Miss Shaw,” I said. 

"What do you mean?” she asked im- 
mediately. "I’m not — we’re not in need 
of help — I don’t think you’ve a right to 
presume that.” 

I looked hard into her eyes, and she 
was almost immediately disconcerted. 

"I want you to tell me a few things,” 
I went on, "and perhaps I can help.” 

At this she was definitely disturbed and 
made an effort to get past me. I caught 
her arm. 

"I saw you last night,” I said abruptly. 

A cry broke from her lips. She stood 
away at arm’s length, her free hand cover- 
ing her mouth. Her eyes were wide with 
unmistakable terror. With an effort she 
forced the fear from her eyes, brought 
her hand from her mouth, and attempted 
to smile. 

"I don’t think you could have seen 
me,” she said in a low voice. 

"Try to believe me,” I said gently. "I 
saw you in your cabin with a bound 
wolf.” 

She could not disguise her fright, and 
yet attempted to laugh, succeeding only 
in sounding hysterical. 

"Both my brother and I went to bed 
early last night,” she said. 

"I saw through a rent in the curtain,”’ 
I persisted. 

An angry flush crossed her face. "Go 
away, please,” she said. 

"Very well,” I said, "but I’ll return to- 
night — and shoot any wolf I see, whether 
inside the cabin or not.” 

A torrent of words fell from her lips. 


THE WOMAN AT LOON POINT 


603 


"No, no, pleasel You must not come 
back here again. Oh, it may be true — no, 
no, what am I saying? Of course it isn’t 
true, it can’t be! But there’s a wolf in the 
forest. I’ve heard him. You must not be 
out when he runs. Promise me you won’t 
come back here.” 

Her voice had gone low, husky, almost 
sobbing. Tears stood in her eyes. For a 
moment her emotion disconcerted me. 

"I’m sorry,” I said. "If you sincerely 
believe I can’t help you, I won’t come 
back.” 

I heard her breathe an almost inaudible 
"Thank you,” and saw her disappear in- 
side, closing the door behind her. 

D espite my promise, I did return to 
the cabin that night. It had been 
dark for more than an hour when I ar- 
rived at Loon Lodge, but a light glowed 
from behind the curtains drawn over the 
windows. I went at once to the closest 
window, and discovered that the rent 
through which I had looked into the 
lodge on the previous night had been re- 
paired. Indeed, all the curtains had been 
carefully sewed and patched. Laramie 
Shaw obviously did not intend to allow 
me a second sight of what happened at 
night in the cabin. 

But I heard the growling and strug- 
gling of the bound wolf inside; so I knew 
that it was there. 

On the homeward path I heard again 
the call of the other wolf coming from 
the direction of Loon Lodge. 

The next night there was a full moon. 
I took up my watch again, but once more 
failed utterly to learn anything new and 
was driven to my lodge by the approach 
of the other animal and my carelessness 
in bringing an unloaded weapon with me. 

On the next two nights my watch was 
equally futile. But on the third night 
after the full moon, there was a slight 
change. The wolf was in the cabin, but 


not once did it cry out, not once did it 
struggle to escape. The wolf that haunted, 
the surrounding forest called from afar, 
making no attempt to approach Loon 
Lodge. After that, the imprisoned animal 
became more and more quiet. 

During this time, I saw nothing of the 
Shaws. I tried once again to call, but my 
knocks went unanswered. Nevertheless, 

I continued to watch the cabin, and as a 
result I discovered that the wolf inside be- 
came most violent in the week of the full 
moon, a violence common to all animals. 

Eventually I gave up, though the mys- 
tery that brooded over the Shaws lingered 
in my mind and irritated me by its pres- 
ence. November had come, and soon I 
would be leaving again for home. 

And then one day, in answer to a furi- 
ous pounding on my front door shortly 
after the noon hour, I opened it on Lara- 
mie Shaw and looked into her frightened 
eyes. At once she brushed past me, and 
closed the door and latched it. Then she 
turned and faced me, her back to the 
door, her eyes wild and afraid. 

"I’ve come,” she said, jerkingly. "You 
were the only one I could go to. I’ve 
stood it so long — I can’t any more.” 

I saw that she was on the verge of col- 
lapse, and pushed forward a chair into 
which I urged her. Her face was the 
color of chalk. Her hands were clasped 
in her lap, her fingers twining together 
and together. 

"I want to do anything I can to help 
you,” I said. 

S HE did not answer at once. She closed 
her eyes and leaned back; for an in- 
stant I thought she had fainted. But she 
had not; for presently, with visible effort, 
she forced herself to tell me of the hor- 
rible thing that was making her life a 
torture. 

"Those things you said you saw in our 


604 


WEIRD TALES 


lodge,” she began slowly. "They were 
true. I don’t know how to explain them.” 

She paused and looked helplessly at 
me. Then she began, at a different point, 
her voice hysterically hurried. 

"We came here on a vacation. We had 
planned to stay for two months. Not 
long after our arrival, Jim made the ac- 
quaintance of an elderly man whom he 
met in the woods. Though not very well 
dressed, this man — you saw him, you told 
me he had warned you away from us — 
Henri Letellier, was intelligent and inter- 
esting. He had led a long life of vaga- 
bondage, and his narratives held Jim. 

"One night we asked him into the 
lodge for supper with us. He ate nothing 
but meat, and as the meal progressed he 
got more and more nervous, and began 
to look around as if suspicious of some- 
thing. His conduct alarmed me, and even 
Jim took notice. Then suddenly, just as 
the sun was setting, he jumped up and 
ran from the house without a word of ex- 
planation. We were astounded, and natu- 
rally Jim went after him. 

"Before Jim returned, night had set in, 
and a moon was glowing above the trees 
fringing the clearing. And then — with 
Jim nowhere in sight — I heard the un- 
mistakable howl of a timber wolf from 
somewhere in the immediate vicinity! 
Only a split second later I heard Jim 
crashing through the underbrush, coming 
toward the lodge. I don’t know what I 
feared, but I ran back into the cabin for 
Jim’s gun. 

"Only Providence could have caused 
me to do that; for when I got outside 
again, I saw Jim being flung to the 
ground under the attack of a gigantic 
timber wolf. I fired and missed, afraid 
of hitting Jim. But my shot didn’t 
frighten the brute away. It slashed Jim 
cruelly, dangerously close to his neck. 
Then I fired again, and that time I struck 


it — in the leg, I think; for it jumped 
away and vanished in the forest in a mo- 
ment. 

"I ran to him. He lay moaning on the 
ground where he had been thrown. I 
got him into the lodge and bathed the 
wound and dressed it. Then I went for 
a doctor. He came and dressed Jim’s 
wound anew, but seemed so incredulous 
about the scanty details I gave him that 
we didn’t call him again. Fortunately, 
Jim seemed to be resting easily; so there 
was no need for the doctor again. To- 
ward morning he developed a strange fe- 
ver and became restless. I was anxious, 
and became still more so when after a 
little while he began to make odd, deliri- 
ous sounds. I bent to listen, and — oh, 
how can I tell it? — they were animal 
sounds, unhuman, guttural sounds, and 
even as I recognized them, there came 
from Jim’s throat what was unmistakably 
the low whine of an animal in pain!” 

She paused and covered her face with 
her hands. "Oh, I can’t go on,” she 
sobbed, "I can’t — it’s so horrible, so 
unbelievable — you’ll think I’m mad.” 

"Please go on,” I said in the most per- 
suasive voice I could summon. I made no 
move to comfort her, feeling instinctively 
that she might resent it. 

She looked up. "Perhaps you’ve 
guessed the frightful thing that hap- 
pened. That man — Letellier — is a were- 
wolf — a man doomed to become a beast 
at sundown, doomed to assume the shape 
of a savage wolf, a beast whose nourish- 
ment is the blood of animals and human 
beings! And his bite was so venomous, 
so accursed, that it had contaminated 
Jim, so that Jim, too, must inevitably 
change and become as Letellier!” 

She looked at me with defiant eyes. 

"Go on,” I said in a tense voice. I 
did not want her to see any evidence of 
the turmoil in my mind. I had fleetingly 
thought that something had unsettled her 


THE WOMAN AT LOON POINT 


605 


mind; but too soon I saw that everything 
I had seen fitted into this inconceivable 
tale she was relating. Yet I could not 
easily believe. 

"Jim knew,” she went on. "He knew 
what to expect; for he had been trans- 
formed into a werewolf completely — he 
knew of the terrible blood-lust that would 
come over him, knew that soon a nightly 
change of form would begin. He knew 
that somehow blood from Letellier’s veins 
had entered his own, thus binding him to 
Letellier. And he felt that if he could 
be kept from tasting blood in any form 
for a long time, the spell would be weak- 
ened and broken. 

"It was at Jim’s demand that I tied and 
chained him the next night — and every 
night after.” She shuddered. "I didn't 
want to do it, but Jim insisted. I can’t 
describe my horror and loathing at the 
sight of the slow change that came over 
him that night — ^how before my eyes my 
brother became a savage beast!” 

F or a few moments she sat in silence 
that I did not break. 

"He was worst in the week of the full 
moon,” she began again. "Then the 
blood-lust in his veins was strongest, and 
I had the most difficult time with him. 
It’s the sixth month, now. Up to this 
time Letellier has appeared only on moon- 
lit nights and howled for Jim just beyond 
the clearing. Jim says that if he can be 
shot and killed, the spell will be lifted 
from him by Letellier’s death. I tried once 
or twice to shoot him, but he avoids me — 
and I’m not a good shot. 

"I came to you, because today Letellier 
surprized me at the lodge — and threat- 
ened me. He knows that Jim is escaping 
him, and that I’m helping him. If I con- 
tinue, he means to waylay me either when 
I go to Lacroit, or when I get water or 
wood. Before this he never came, though 
I saw him once by day shortly after he 


had attacked Jim in his nocturnal form. 
He was limping. I think my bullet caused 
that limp. That offers definite proof that 
bullets can and do affect these creatures. 
At least, a bullet can kill their bodies — 
but Jim says that it must be a silver bullet 
to free the evil spirit that animates Letel- 
lier. Will you help me?” 

Once more she was on the verge of 
hysteria. 

"You and I will do it together,” I said. 

"Thank you,” she said simply. 

"I’m going back to Loon Lodge with 
you at once,” I went on, "and when I 
know you’re safe inside. I’m going to La- 
croit and have silver bullets made.” 

O UR journey back to Loon Lodge was 
rapid, for Laramie Shaw was wor- 
ried about Jim, not knowing how much 
power Letellier might have over him by 
day. But Jim was safe. I left at once for 
Lacroit, warning Laramie under no con- 
ditions to leave the house, for since 
Letellier might have seen me and guessed 
that she had sought help, he might lie 
in wait for her at once. 

The hour I spent in the village was 
nerve-racking. I could not help thinking 
of Laramie’s danger, fearing that she 
might be drawn from the lodge despite 
my warning. And my fear for her safety 
was tinged by an entirely different emo- 
tion which the first sight of Laramie 
Shaw had implanted in my mind. 

An old locksmith had no difficulty in 
making the bullets which were to fit into 
my pistol, the weapon I could use with 
the greatest degree of accuracy. 

November dusk was threatening from 
the other side of the lake when I made 
my way along the shore, and already the 
early moon had risen, I ran, to reach 
Loon Lodge before night, but my haste 
was needless; for the sun was still linger- 
ing on the horizon when I emerged into 
the clearing. As I approached the lodge I 


606 


WEIRD TALES 


saw from the corner of one eye that some- 
one was lurking in the bushes beyond, 
but as I spun around to look, he vanished. 
At the same moment, Laramie, who had 
seen me coming, threw open the door and 
with a glad cry ran out toward me. 

I ran to her, took her arm almost 
roughly, and retreated into the cabin. 
"Someone in the bushes,” I warned. 

"I know,” she said recklessly; "it’s 
Letellier. He’s been here ever since you 
left for Lacroit.” 

Jim sat in a low chair near the table. 
He was even paler than he had been 
when I had seen him a month before. 
Indeed, he seemed to»be in the last stages 
of some incurable disease. 

"Jim, this is Jack Durfrey. He’s got 
the lodge at the base of the Point. He 
knows, and he’s come to help.” 

Jim put out a weak, uncertain hand, 
muttering, "Glad to know you.” 

As I spoke to him, the sun slipped be- 
low the horizon, and abruptly, to my hor- 
ror, a change came over Jim Shaw. He 
seemed to shrivel, to shrink back against 
the chair. His head appeared to lengthen, 
his hair became coarse, and on his shrink- 
ing hands appeared a grayish-black mat 
of hair. His clothes dropped from him. 
At the same instant a wolf howled from 
the dusk beyond the lodge. 

Then I jerked open the door and fired 
at the skulking figure in the encroaching 
shadows. I missed, for the wolf that was 
Letellier vanished into the underbrush. 

I heard Laramie’s frightened cry be- 
hind me and whirled to see Jim, her 
brother, a wild animal, snarling and un- 
bound, free for the first time. In the ex- 
citement of my coming, Laramie had for- 


gotten to bind him! But, fortunately for 
both of us, the animal could not throw 
off the physical weakness of the man, and 
the wolf was accordingly handicapped. 
Again came a threatening howl from out- 
side. 

I had left the door standing partly 
open, an act of carelessness for which 
both Laramie and I might have paid with 
our souls. It was Laramie’s warning cry 
that saved us. I turned just in time. For 
the wolf that was Letellier, seeing that 
Jim was unbound, that the door was open 
and our backs turned, had run swiftly 
across the clearing, and was launching it- 
self at me even as I turned. I fired blind- 
ly, closing my eyes. 

I think no sound was ever more wel- 
come to my ears than the sound of the 
wolf’s body crashing to the earth. With 
an effort I swung the door to and backed 
up against it. 

I heard Laramie’s low cry of joy, and 
in another moment witnessed the amaz- 
ing transformation from wolf to man that 
brought Jim Shaw once more into human 
shape, a slow, horrible process, suggestive 
of long-lost, age-old horror. 

Then Laramie Shaw sought my arms, 

I ARAMiE has since become my wife. 

J I admit that at first I had had doubts 
about her sanity, despite the way in which 
facts as I knew them fitted into her expla- 
nation. But all doubts I had were lost 
when Jim and I stepped from the lodge 
later that night to bury the thing that lay 
just beyond the door. For, though I had 
clearly shot a timber wolf, the thing we 
buried was the body of the man who 
called himself Henri Letellier! 





By AMELIA REYNOLDS LONG 

The story of a strange and direful doom that lurked within the pages 
of an old book, bound in human skin 


I T WAS Murray who first discovered 
the album, in the musty back room 
of the second-hand book-shop. It 
was tucked away next to a moldy copy of 
Paracelsus on the top shelf, and would 
have escaped notice entirely had not a 
beam from the dusty electric light bulb 
glinted on a rubbed place on the brass 
bands that bound it. 

"Hello! What’s this?’’ Murray ex- 
claimed aloud, and lifted it down. 

Fenwick and O’Hara, who had been 
browsing through the shelves behind him, 
turned at the sound of his voice. 

"It looks like an old photograph al- 
bum,’’ Fenwick observed, glancing over 
Murray’s shoulder. "How ever do you 
suppose it got mixed up with these old 
books on magic and superstition?’’ 

"Take it in your hand,’’ Murray in- 
vited. An odd expression had come into 
his face. 

Fenwick obeyed, but almost dropped 

it. 

"It’s heavier than it looks,” he re- 
marked, recovering it. Then his expres- 
sion changed, as Murray’s had done. 

"What ails the thing?” he demanded. 
"It feels as if — ^here, O’Hara; you take it. 
See if you notice anything.” 

O’Hara took the book in his hand, and 
weighed it experimentally. 

"It is heavy for the size of it,” he com- 
mented. "But what ” A grayish 

pallor overspread his face, and he thrust 
the book back at Murray. 


"Divil an’ all!” he cried. "The thing 
crawled under my fingers!” 

Murray grinned appreciatively. 

"It must be the stuff it’s bound in 
makes it feel that way,” he speculated. 
He carried it nearer to the single electric 
light, in order to examine it better. 
"It looks like some kind of soft, whitish 
leather.” 

"Put it away,” O’Hara said, wiping his 
hands upon his handkerchief. "I don’t 
like the feel of it.” 

Murray was in the act of complying, 
but on sudden impulse checked himself. 
"May as well see what’s in the thing,” 
he murmured, and undid the brass clasps. 
Fenwick and O’Hara, fascinated in spite 
of themselves, drew near again. 

The inside of the book, instead of 
being made of the usual heavily enameled 
paper, was composed of sheets of wood 
planed to almost paper-thinness, and 
varnished and polished so that the grain 
of the wood was brought out in a most 
pleasing manner. The photographs were 
inserted in the ordinary way. 

The first picture was a daguerreotype 
of so early a date that it was faded almost 
away; and it was only by holding the 
page sidewise that the three men were 
able to distinguish its subject, a young 
man in the full stock and knee-breeches 
of the late Eighteenth Century. Unlike 
the ordinary subject of that early period 
of the photographer’s art, his expression 
was neither stony nor wooden, but was 
animated by a kind of incredulous sur- 

607 


608 


WEIRD TALES 


prize, that was intense and vital even 
after a lapse of more than a hundred 
years. 

"Odd-looking chap,” Murray com- 
mented, and flipped over the page. 

The second picture brought to view a 
woman of early middle age, whose cos- 
tume indicated a period some fifteen or 
twenty years later than that represented 
by the man. She bore no physical resem- 
blance to him that might have indicated 
a blood relationship, but her features 
were stamped with that same expression 
of startled incredulity that distinguished 
his. 

Murray leafed through several more 
pages. There was a young girl of the 
eighteen-forties; a Confederate soldier; a 
gentleman of the post-Civil War period. 
And on all of their faces was that identi- 
cal expression of incredulous surprize. 

"There’s something strange about the 
lot of them,” Fenwick observed thought- 
fully. "Wasn’t that an index or some- 
thing scratched on the fly-leaf?” 

While Murray held the book, he turned 
back the stiff wooden pages to the blank 
one immediately inside the top cover. 
But it was not an index that had been 
scratched into the varnished surface of 
the wood : 

" 'To Whosoever may open this 
Booke,’ ’’ Murray read aloud. ” 'Be it set 
down here as a Warning to you, Sir or 
Madame, that ye open this Booke at no 
Point beyond that whereat is placed the 
red ribbon Booke-Mark. Better still were 
it should ye throw the entire Booke, un- 
opened, into the Flames; but this 1 cannot 
hope that ye will do, being unable to ac- 
complish it myself. But I do most ear- 
nestly ^jure you that ye look no Place be- 
yond the red Ribbon, lest ye lose your- 
selves to this Worlde, Bodie & Soule; for 
it is a veritable Tomb for the Living.’” 

The message was unsigned. 

Murray glanced at his two companions. 


"Shall we?” he inquired, fingering the 
wisp of faded red ribbon that dangled 
from the middle of the volume before 
the picture of a World War soldier. 

Fenwick was about to nod assent; then 
a quizzical expression appeared about the 
corners of his mouth. 

"Wait a bit,” he counseled. "Let’s buy 
the thing and take it along. Then we’ll 
all meet somewhere tonight, and open it 
at twelve o’clock. We’ll make a real cer- 
emony of it, and defy the curse.” 

Murray’s eyes lighted up with enthu- 
siasm. 

"Excellent!” he exclaimed. "And since 
I discovered the book, we’ll meet at my 
diggings. But see to it that you’re both 
there by midnight; for I won’t wait.” 

O’Hara looked doubtful, but said noth- 
ing. 

2 

O ’Hara glanced at his watch as he 
turned in at Murray’s door. Just 
five minutes to twelve. He had not meant 
to cut it so fine; but at least he had ar- 
rived before the appointed hour. 

A voice behind him made him turn. 
Fenwick was coming up the stairs in back 
of him. 

"Glad to see I’m not the only one,” 
Fenwick said. "I had engine trouble; 
what made you late?” 

"Late?” O’Hara repeated. "We’ve still 
got five minutes.” 

"Your watch must be run down,” Fen- 
wick told him. He brought out his own 
watch. Its hands stood at a quarter past 
twelve. 

"No chance that Murray’s waited for 
us, I suppose,” O’Hara said uneasily. He 
had an unaccountable feeling of having 
failed in some vital emergency. 

"Well, it couldn’t be helped.” Fen- 
wick shrugged philosophically. "But, at 
least, he’s bound to let us see his treas- 
ure.” 


W. T.— 6 


THE ALBUM 


609 


He raised his hand and rapped sharply 
upon the outer door. There was no 
answer. 

Fenwick waited a minute or so, then 
repeated his knock, this time a trifle 
louder. Again there was no answer save 
a hollow echo from the otherwise silent 
rooms beyond. 

"What the deuce!” he exclaimed im- 
patiently. "Is he dead in there.?” 

"Don’t say that,” O’Hara muttered 
nervously. "I don’t like it.” 

Fenwick glanced at him quickly, but 
made no comment. 

"I’m going in,” he declared when a 
third knock had failed to bring any re- 
sponse. "If he’s gone out a minute on 
some errand, he’ll expect us to do that.” 

The door swung open under his hand; 
and followed by O’Hara, he stepped into 
the silent hall. 

Through an open doorway ahead of 
them, a light flickered in grotesque dance. 
Fenwick and O’Hara followed its lurid 
beckonings into the room beyond. 

A fire had been lighted in the fireplace; 
and it was the undulation of its flames 
that had sent the flickering light into the 
hall. The large reading-lamp upon the 
library table had not been lighted, for the 
fire furnished sufficient illumination for 
ordinary purposes; although it left the 
corners of the large room filled with 
hanging masses of shadow, like great bats 
clinging by their claws to the blackened 
wainscot. There was about the place an 
air of almost sentient expectancy, as 
though its regular occupant had quitted 
it only a minute before, and would return 
any instant. 

F enwick and O’Hara seated them- 
selves in the deep armchairs on either 
side of the fireplace to await the return of 
their missing host. But five minutes 
lengthened into ten, and ten into twenty; 
and he did not appear. When a half- 
W. T.— 7 


hour had passed, O’Hara rose and began 
to pace the floor restlessly, pausing occa- 
sionally to pick up and examine some ob- 
ject on one of the small stands scattered 
about the room. 

The glint of metal attracted his atten- 
tion, and he stopped to investigate. It 
was the gleam of the firelight upon the 
brass clasps of the album, lying un- 
wrapped upon the library table. 

O’Hara put out his hand tentatively, 
and although the touch of that whitish, 
leather-like substance revolted him, half 
opened the top cover. His eyes turned 
inquiringly to Fenwick’s. 

"Why not?” Fenwick rose languidly, 
and crossed to his side. "Apparently 
Murray’s had his look without waiting 
for us; so there’s no reason why we 
should wait any longer for him.” 

With a feeling of growing excitement 
that neither of them would have acknowl- 
edged, they began to leaf through the 
book; past the man of over a hundred 
years ago, past the young woman of the 
’forties, past the dozen or so others until 
they came to the World War soldier, at 
whose page the red ribbon book-mark 
had lain that morning. 

"Murray has been tampering,” Fen- 
wick observed suddenly. "See, he has 
moved the book-mark.” 

"But only to the next page,” O’Hara 
said. 

He turned over the thin wooden leaf. 
An instant his glance rested upon the one 
that had been beneath. Then, with a 
startled cry, he clapped the book shut. 

Fenwick’s eyes flickered. Without a 
word, he took the book from O’Hara’s 
trembling hands, and reopened it at the 
place where the ribbon now lay. 

Staring up at him with the same ex- 
pression of incredulous surprize that had 
characterized the subjects of all the other 
photographs, was the face of the missing 
Murray! 


610 


WEIRD TALES 


Fenwick looked at O’Hara, who looked 
back at him with questioning apprehen- 
sion. Suddenly a formless darkness 
seemed to dim the ruddy glow of the fire- 
light, while an arctic chill permeated the 
air. The undulating shadows crept nearer. 

"Let’s get out of here,” O’Hara mut- 
tered thickly, and started toward the door, 
Fenwick followed. 

3 

F enwick and O’Hara faced each other 
across the restaurant table. In the 
faces of both were fine lines that had 
not been there two weeks before. 

"He’s been gone ten days now,” 
O’Hara observed, breaking the silence 
that had fallen between them. 

Fenwick nodded. "And no trace of 
him has been found,” he said. 

"Nor will there be,” O’Hara declared 
with conviction; then he added, "He has 
lost himself to this world.” 

Fenwick’s keen glance flew search- 
ingly to his companion’s face. He offered 
no comment, but his hand clenched in- 
voluntarily upon the table-cloth. O’Hara 
saw the gesture. 

"Oh, why go on denying it to each 
other?” he cried. His voice rose to a 
pitch approaching hysteria. "The book 
got Murray; we both know it did. And it 
will get us too unless we destroy it!” 

"Steady, old man,” Fenwick counseled, 
but his own voice was tight under its 
calm. "If it’s finding Murray’s picture in 
the album that’s worrying you, put your 
mind at rest. Placing it there was just 
one of his silly ideas of humor. He left 
us alone with the mysterious volume, in 
order to work our curiosity to fever-pitch. 
Then, when we couldn’t resist the temp- 
tation any longer, we opened it— to find 
his photograph on the forbidden page, 
just as he had intended that we should. 


Why, at this very minute, he is prob- 
ably ” 

"It was no joke,” O’Hara interrupted. 
He was speaking rapidly, almost incoher- 
ently. "If it had been, he’d have come 
back long ago; he’d never have let it go 
so far. But he hasn’t come back because 
he can’t come back. I tell you the book 
got him!” 

Fenwick was silent for several min- 
utes. When he finally spoke, it was with 
a kind of grim decision. 

"Very well,” he said. "If you feel that 
way about it, we’ll get the book and de- 
stroy it. Meet me at Murray’s place at 
ten o’clock tonight.” 

4 

F enwick glanced impatiently at his 
watch, then slipped it back into his 
pocket and resumed his restless pacing of 
the floor. What in the devil, he asked 
himself for the twentieth time, could be 
keeping O’Hara? They had agreed to meet 
here in Murray’s room at ten o’clock; and 
it was now nearly eleven. 

He paused beside the library table 
where the book lay, and looked down at 
it; but he did not touch it. Not that he 
had any ridiculous superstitions about it, 
of course; but — hang it all! — there was 
something disquieting about the blasted 
thing, and the way he found himself 
wanting to finger that soft, repulsive 
stuff in which it was bound. What was 
it the stuff reminded him of? It wasn’t 
leather; it was more like — like — good 
Lord! — it was like human flesh! 

'The too apt simile gave rise in him to 
a feeling of revulsion, and he crossed to 
the fireplace and sat down in one of the 
armchairs. Why the devil didn’t O’Hara 
come? He leaned back and closed his 
eyes. . . . 

He came to with the disquieting sensa- 
tion that he had been sound asleep, and 


THE ALBUM 


that while he slept, someone had come 
into the room. With a feeling of drugged 
sluggishness, like that of a man who had 
not entirely thrown off the bonds of sleep, 
he turned his head and peered into the 
shadows. 

At first he could discern nothing; for 
the fire had burned down to a mere bed 
of red ashes, so that except for a little 
space immediately in front of the fire- 
place, the room was in almost complete 
darkness. But then he saw them, dim in 
the gloom; the vague blur of a woman’s 
full-skirted white dress, and the gleam of 
brass buttons on a man’s military uni- 
form among the dozen or so forms that 
moved noiselessly about the room. 

Seeing that he had observed them, sev- 
eral of the figures came closer to him, but 
not quite near enough for him to distin- 
guish their faces clearly. Nevertheless, he 
was impressed by an uncanny air of fa- 
miliarity about them, as though he had 
encountered them all somewhere before, 
under slightly different circumstances. 

Fenwick struggled to cast off the 
dream-like stupor that still enveloped 
him, and partly succeeded. 

"I must have been napping when you 
came in,” he mumbled, wondering at him- 
self that he was not more surprized to 
discover this company of people in Mur- 
ray’s untenanted rooms. "I — I’m sorry 
if I kept you waiting.” 

The figure of a man detached itself 
from the group, and came forward. It 
was the only one, Fenwick observed, that 
was not costumed in the style of an ear- 
lier day. It rested its arms across the 
back of his chair and stood looking down 
at him, as though waiting recognition. 

Fenwick raised his eyes to the figure’s, 
then sprang to his feet with a cry of 
astonishment. 

"Murray!” he exclaimed incredulously. 


Ul 

Murray nodded, but did not speak. 
Linking his arm through Fenwick’s, he 
led him to the table where the book lay. 

Actuated by an impulse independent of 
his own will, Fenwick picked it up and 
opened the cover. It did not quiver under 
his hand as on former occasions, but was 
like the inanimate leather binding of any 
other book. He turned over the first page. 

"This is strange,” he observed to Mur- 
ray. "The pictures have been removed.” 

Murray nodded. He seemed to be try- 
ing to convey some message to Fenwick; 
although for some mysterious reason he 
still did not speak. Almost covertly he 
gestured toward his shadowy companions. 

Of a sudden, Fenwick realized why 
those others had appeared so uncannily 
familiar to him, and where it was that he 
had seen them before: They were the 
people of the photographs in the album! 

Ignoring the pressure of Murray’s sud- 
denly restraining hand upon his arm, and 
swept along by a burning curiosity that 
he was powerless to resist, he leafed 
quickly over the now empty pages until 
he came to the place where the book- 
mark lay. He removed it, and turned the 
leaf. . . , 

5 

O ’Hara stood perplexedly in the mid- 
dle of Murray’s empty living-room. 
When that slight accident to his taxi had 
delayed him over an hour, he had been 
positive that Fenwick would arrive at 
their rendezvous ahead of him; yet he 
found the place empty. 

But perhaps Fenwick had arrived, and 
had gone out to look for him. 'The room 
had that unmistakable air of recent occu- 
pancy. . . . 

The fire had burned itself down to a 
mere bed of red ashes, leaving the room 


612 


WEIRD TALES 


almost in darkness. O’Hara crossed to the 
library table, and switched on the read- 
ing-lamp. Its light glinted upon the brass 
clasps of the album. 

Fighting down the feeling of nausea 
that the touch of it aroused in him, 
O’Hara opened its cover, and turned over 
the first page. There was the daguerreo- 
type of the man in the knee-breeches, and 
b^ond him that of the middle-aged 
woman. 

Mechanically O’Hara turned the leaves 
until he came to the one containing the 


picture of Murray. He caught his breath 
with a sharp, hissing sound. 

"So!” he exclaimed aloud. "Fenwick 
has been here. And he’s moved the book- 
mark one page forward!’’ 

A moment he hesitated; then, his heart 
beating with a strange excitement, he 
turned over the page and glanced fear- 
fully down. 

Staring up at him with the same ex- 
pression of incredulous surprize that had 
characterized all the others, was the pic- 
tured face of Fenwick! 


Vhe 




heater Upstairs 

By MANLY WADE WELLMAN 


weird and uncanny story about a motion-picture show, in which dead actors, 
and actresses flickered across the silver screen 


“"B" OOK, a picture theater — who’d ex- 

I pect one here?’’ 

*■ Luther caught my arm and 
dragged me to a halt. We’d been out on 
a directionless walk through lower Man- 
hattan that evening — "flitting” was Lu- 
ther’s word, cribbed, I think, from Robert 
W. Qiambers. The old narrow street 
where we now paused had an old English 
name and was somewhere south and east 
of Chinatown. Its line of dingy shops 
had foreign words on their dim windows, 
and lights and threadbare curtains up 
above where their proprietors lodged. 
And right before us, where Luther had 
stopped to gaze, was a narrow wooden 
door that bore a white card. CINEMA, 
it said in bold, plain capitals. And, in 
smaller letters below: Georgia Wattell. 

I was prepared to be embarrassed by 
that name. Everyone suspected, and a 
few claimed to know positively, that 


Georgia Wattell had committed suicide at 
the height of her Hollywood career be- 
cause Luther had deserted her. But my 
companion did not flinch, only drew up 
that thick body of his. A smile wrinkled 
his handsome features, features that still 
meant box-office to any picture, even 
though they were softening from too 
much food and drink and so forth. 

"Wonder which of Georgia’s things it 
is,” Luther mused, with a gayety slightly 
forced. "Come on. I’ll stand you a 
show.” 

I didn’t like it, but refusal would seem 
accusation. So I let him draw me through 
the door. 

W E HAD stairs to walk up — creaky 
old stairs. They were so narrow 
that we had to mount in single file, our 
shoulders brushing first one wall, then 
the other. I was mystified, for doesn’t a 


THE THEATER UPSTAIRS 


615 


New York ordinance provide that thea- 
ters cannot be on upper floors? There 
was no light on those stairs, as I remem- 
ber, only a sort of grayness filtering from 
above. At any rate, we saw better when 
we came to th^ little foyer at the top. 
A shabby man stood there, with lead- 
colored eyes in his square face and a 
great shock of coarse gray hair. 

"Admission a quarter,” he mumbled 
in a soft, hoarse voice, and accepted the 
half-dollar Luther produced. "Go on in.” 

With one hand he pocketed the coin 
and with the other drew back a dark, 
heavy curtain. We entered a long hall, 
groped our way to seats — we were the 
only patrons, so far as I could tell — and 
almost at once the screen lit up with the 
title: THE HORLA, by Guy de Maupas- 
sant. 

"Creepy stuff — good!” muttered Luther 
with relish, then added some other com- 
ment on the grisly classic. What with 
trying to hear him and read the cast of 
players at the same moment, I failed in 
both efforts. The shimmering words on 
the screen dissolved into a pictured land- 
scape, smitten by rain which the sound 
apparatus mimicked drearily. In the mid- 
dle distance appeared a cottage, squat and 
ancient, with a droopy, soft-seeming roof 
like the cap of a toadstool. The camera 
viewpoint sailed down and upon it, in 
what Luther called a "dolly shot.” We 
saw at close quarters the front porch. 

Two women sat on the top step, ex- 
changing the inconsequential opening 
dialog. Georgia Wattell seated at center 
with her sad, dark face turned front, was 
first recognizable. Her companion, to one 
side and in profile, offered to our view a 
flash of silver-blond hair and a handsome, 
feline countenance. 

"It’s Lilyan Tashman,” grunted Luther, 
and shut up his mouth with a snap. He 
might have said more about this uneasy 
vision of two dead actresses talking and 


moving, but he did not. A third figure 
was coming into view at the left, shed- 
ding a glistening waterproof and a soaked 
slouch hat. My first glimpse of his 
smooth black hair and close-set ears, seen 
from behind, struck a chord of memory 
in me. 'Then his face swiveled around 
into view, and I spoke aloud. 

"This can’t be!” I protested. "Why, 
Rudolph Valentino died before anybody 
even dreamed of sound pic ” 

But it was Valentino nevertheless, and 
he had been about to speak to the two 
women. However, just as I exclaimed in 
my unbelieving amazement, he paused 
and faced front. His gaze seemed to meet 
mine, and suddenly I realized how big he 
was on the screen, eight or ten feet high 
at the least. Those brilliant eyes withered 
me, his lip twitched over his dazzling 
teeth — the contemptuous rebuke-expres- 
sion of an actor to a noisy audience. 

So devastatingly real was that shadowy 
snub that I almost fell from my seat. 
I know that Luther swore, and that I 
felt sweaty all over. When I recovered 
enough to assure myself that my imagi- 
nation was too lively, Valentino had 
turned back to deliver his interrupted en- 
trance line. The show went on. 

So far there was nothing to remind me 
of de Maupassant’s story as I had read 
it. But with Valentino’s first speech and 
Georgia Wattell’s answer the familiar 
plot began. Of course, it was freely 
modified, like most film versions of the 
classics. For one thing, the victim of the 
invisible monster was not a man but a 
woman — Georgia, to be exact — and it 
seemed to me at the time that this change 
heightened the atmosphere of helpless 
horror. Valentino might have done some- 
thing vigorous, either spiritual or physi- 
cal, against de Maupassant’s Horla. 
Georgia Wattell, with her sorrowfully 
lovely face and frail little body, seemed 
inescapably foredoomed. 


614 


iWEIRD TALES 


The remainder of the action on the 
porch was occupied by Georgia’s descrip- 
tion of the barely-understood woes she 
•was beginning to suffer at the Horla’s 
hands. Miss Tashman as her friend and 
Valentino as her lover urged her to treat 
everything as a fancy and to tell herself 
that all would be well. She promised — 
but how vividly she acted the part of an 
unbeliever in her own assurance! Then 
the image of the porch, with those three 
shadows of dead players posed upon it in 
attitudes of life, faded away. 

T he next scene was a French country 
bedroom — curtained bed, prie-dieu 
and so on. Georgia Wattell entered it, 
unfastening her clothing. 

"Ho!” exploded Luther somewhat las- 
civiously, but I did not stop to be dis- 
gusted with him. My mind was wrestling 
with the situation, how items so familiar 
in themselves — lower New York, the 
motion picture business, the performers, 
de Maupassant's story — could be so 
creepy in combination. 

Well, Georgia took off her dress. I 
saw, as often before, that she had a lovely 
bosom and shoulders, for all her fragility. 
Over her underthings she drew an ample 
white robe, on the collar of which fell 
her loosened dark hair. Kneeling for a 
moment at the prie-dieu, she murmured 
a half-audible prayer, then turned toward 
the bed. At that moment there entered — • 
just where, I cannot say — the Horla. 

It was quite the finest and weirdest 
film device I have ever seen. No effect in 
the picture versions of Frankenstein or 
Dracula remotely approached it. Without 
outline or opacity, less tangible than a 
shimmer of hot air, yet it gave the im- 
pression of living malevolence. I felt 
aware of its presence upon the screen 
without actually seeing it; but how could 
it have been suggested without being 
visible? I should like to discuss this point 


with someone else who saw the picture, 
but I have never yet found such a person. 

It was there, anyway. Georgia regis* 
tered sudden and uneasy knowledge of it. 
Her body shuddered a trifle inside the 
robe and she paused as if in indecision, 
then moved toward the bed. A moment 
later she moaned wildly and staggered 
a bit. The thing, whatever triumph of 
photo-dramatic trickery it was, enveloped 
her. 

She went all blurred and indistinct, as 
though seen through water. Doesn’t de 
Maupassant himself use that figure of 
speech? Then the attacking entity seemed 
to pop out into a faint approach to human 
shape. I could see shadowy arms winding 
around the shrinking girl, a round, fea- 
tureless head bowed as if its maw sou^t 
her throat. She screamed loudly and be- 
gan to struggle. Then Valentino and 
Miss Tashman burst into the room. 

With their appearance the Horla re- 
leased her and seemed to retire into its 
half-intangible condition. I, who had 
utterly forgotten that I saw only a film, 
sighed my inexpressible relief at the 
thing’s momentary defeat, then whispered 
to Luther. 

"I don’t like this,” I said. "Let’s get 
out, or I won’t sleep tonight.” 

"We stay right here,” he mumbled 
back, his eyes bright and fascinated as 
they kept focussed on the screen. 

Valentino was holding Georgia close, 
caressing her to quiet her hysterics and 
speaking reassuringly in his accented 
English. Lilyan Tashman said something 
apparently meant for comedy relief, 
which was badly needed at this point. 
But neither Luther nor I laughed. 

Georgia suddenly cried out in fresh 
fear. 

"It’s there in the corner!” she wailed, 
turning toward the spot where the Horla 
must be lurking. 

Both her companions followed her 


THE THEATER UPSTAIRS 


615 


gaze, apparently seeing nothing. For that 
matter I saw nothing myself, though I 
well knew the thing was there. 

Valentino made another effort to calm 

her. 

'Til put a bullet into it, darling,” he 
offered, with an air of falling in with her 
morbid humor. "In the corner, you say?” 

From his pocket he drew a revolver. 
But Georgia, suddenly calming her shud- 
ders, snatched the weapon from his hand. 

"Don’t!” she begged. "How can a bul- 
let harm something that has no life like 
ours?” 

"Here, don’t point that gun at me!”' 
begged Miss Tashman, retreating in 
comic fright. 

Georgia moved forward in the picture, 
looming larger than her companions, 
■"You can’t kill spirits,” she went on, 
tonelessly and quite undramatically. "Bul- 
lets are for living enemies.” 

She gazed out upon us. 

Right here is where the whole business 
stopped being real and became night- 
mare. Georgia moved again, closer and 
closer, until her head and shoulders, with 
the gun hand lifted beside them, filled 
the screen. She looked as big as the 
Sphinx by then, but grim and merciless 
as no Sphinx ever was. And her enor- 
mous, accusing eyes weren’t fixed upon 
me, but upon Luther. 

My inner self began arguing silently* 
"That’s odd,” it said plaintively. "A gaze 
from the screen seems to meet that of 
each member of the audience. How can 
she be looking past me at ” 

Georgia spoke, between immense, hard- 
ened lips, in a voice that rolled out to fill 
the whole theater: 

"Jan Luther!” 

And she swelled bigger, bigger beyond 
all reason, too big for the screen to con- 
tain. Suddenly there were only the hand 
and the gun, turned toward us like a 
cannon aimed point-blank. 


Luther was on his feet, screaming. 

"You can’t!” he challenged wildly, 
"You — why, you’re only a shadow!” 

But the screen exploded in white light, 
that made the whole hall bright as day 
for just the hundredth part of a second. 
After that I was trying to hold Luther 
erect. He sagged and slumped back into 
his seat in spite of all I could do. Blood 
purled gently down his face from a neat 
round hole in his forehead. 

I glanced wildly at the screen. The 
picture had shrunk back to ordinary di- 
mensions now, showing again the bed- 
room, the three performers and every- 
thing else exactly as it had been. 

Georgia was offering Valentino his 
pistol again. "Thanks, Rudy,” she said. 

I SUPPOSE I must have run crazily out 
of there, for my next memory is of 
panting the story in broken sentences to 
a big blue-coated policeman. He frowned 
as I tried to tell everything at once, then 
came back with me to the street with the 
foreign-labeled shops. When I couldn’t 
find the door and its lettered card he 
laughed, not very good-naturedly, and 
accused me of being drunk. When I tried 
to argue he ordered me to move along or 
go to jail and sleep it off. 

I haven’t seen Luther since, nor heard 
from him. There has been plenty in the 
papers about his disappearance, though 
several editors have put it down as a pub- 
licity stunt. Three times recently I have 
gone into the part of town where I lost 
him, and each time I have seen, at a little 
distance along a sidewalk or across a 
street, the white-haired, leaden-eyed man 
who admitted us to the theater. But, 
though I always tried to hail him, he lost 
himself among the passers-by before I 
reached him. 

At length I have decided to stay away 
from there altogether. I wish I could 
stop thinking about the affair as well. 


Jit Walks by Night 

By HENRY KUTTNER 

'A blood-chilling narrative of a ghastly horror that stalked through 
the crypts beneath the old graveyard 


J OHANN leaned heavily against a 
tall obelisk of discolored marble, his 
fever-weakened body trembling with 
exhaustion. The graveyard was a dim 
black sea, with pale slabs and monoliths 
standing in irregular ranks all about him. 
He fumbled with the slide of his lantern 
and a white beam sprang out vividly, 
etching the man’s gaunt figure in sharp 
detail. 

Deep shadows lay in the hollows of 
his cheeks and beneath his dilated, 
smoldering eyes. His face had an angry 
flush which betrayed the fever blazing in 
his brain — fever that had burned away 
lifelong barriers of fear and driven him 
to this ancient burying-ground where few 
would have ventured after sundown. For, 
as all men knew, a horror dwelt among 
these tombs, an ancient horror that had 
come down through the generations. 
There were tales of a thing that walked by 
night among the graves; so that some- 
times when men came searching in broad 
daylight they found new graves opened, 
coffins ruthlessly torn apart, and the bod- 
ies gone. 

Occasionally one of the villagers would 
bury his kin in the cemetery at Kruschen, 
twenty miles to the north. But this was 
seldom done, since the horror had dwelt 
in the graveyard longer than the oldest 
graybeard, and a kind of hopeless apathy 
hung, like a somber pall, over the village. 
Moreover, there was a tale that, long ago, 
in the year of the great plague when all 
bodies were burned for fear of spreading 
the pestilence, something had come forth 
616 


from among the tombs and had burst 
nightly into the houses on the outskirts 
of the village. A dozen people had van- 
ished without a trace, and at last in des- 
eration the plague-infected corpses had 
een interred in the old burying-ground. 
Thereafter the village slept in peace, al- 
though now and then a lone traveler or 
itinerant peddler would disappear, never 
to be seen again. Still, as the older men 
whispered among themselves, it was lucky 
that worse things did not befall. 

But now Johann was driven by a fierce 
urge that made him disregard the ancient 
menace that lurked among the tombs. He 
had come for his wife. 

Elsa, his bride for scarcely a year, had 
been buried while Johann lay delirious, 
raving with the same fever that had 
proved fatal to his wife. Believing him 
asleep, his cousin’s wife had talked too 
freely, and Johann had learned that Elsa 
had been interred in the devil-haunted 
graveyard beyond the outskirts of the vil- 
lage. His beloved Elsa, daughter of the 
ancient Auber clan that could trace their 
fathers back through Thurn and Taxis — 
the prey of the ghoul! 

Horror had lent Johann strength to 
leave his bed and slip unnoticed from his 
cousin’s house, pausing only to snatch his 
pistol and a lantern. Now he drew the 
weapon from his shirt as footsteps sound- 
ed suddenly near by. 

A man came into view in the starlight, 
gingerly picking his way among the 
graves. As Johann recognized Karl, his 
cousin, he thrust the pistol back into his 


IT WALKS BY NIGHT 


5171 


shirt and let the light from his lantern 
flare out. The newcomer gave a startled 
cry, quickly muffled. 

K arl stepped into the wan splotch of 
• light, relief plain in his pale face. 
"Johann! I thought — what are you doing 
here? You can’t help Elsa now." 

Johann looked away abruptly, his 
mouth working. Karl put a hand on his 
cousin’s shoulder, but Johann shook it off 
impatiently. "It’s your fault, Karl,” he 
accused, his eyes dark with anger. "You 
let them bury Elsa here — in this devil- 
ridden place.” 

Karl made a placating gesture. "What 
could I do? I told them you would 
not ” 

"I know.” The resentment was gone 
from Johann’s voice. It was very bitter 
now. "Our heads have been bowed be- 
neath the yoke for a long time. Too 

long, Karl. Elsa shall not ” 

“She has been buried a week now. 
You — you have no shovel.” 

It was true. Johann had had no time to 
procure one during his flight. He said 
slowly, "I can guard her grave, at any 
rate. You can go back to the village and 
get shovels.” 

Karl was silent. After a moment 
Johann laughed mirthlessly. 

"Bring the shovels tomorrow, then,” 
he jeered. “You won’t be afraid to 
come here in daylight.” 

Stung, Karl responded, "It’s not day- 
light now. Come home, Johann. We can 
get Elsa tomorrow. One more night 
won’t — it’s dangerous, Johann! They say 
the — they say it’s been walking again.” 

Johann shrugged with a nonchalance 
he did not feel. He was shivering in the 
chill wind that blew over the neglected 
graves. His fears, forgotten in his de- 
lirium, were slowly creeping back to tor- 
ment him; but he pushed them resolutely 
aside. 


"I’m not afraid,” he growled, and 
moved forward among the graves, his 
lantern sending out a beam of yellow 
light that rested on lichen-stained stone 
and the worm-eaten and weathered sur- 
face of wooden slabs and crosses. Once 
he tripped over a fallen tombstone, half 
buried in the ground, and would have 
fallen had not Karl caught him. Karl 
began a frantic protest which his cousin 
did not hear. Johann was staring intent- 
ly into the gloom; he took a few hasty 
steps, and at his feet loomed the black 
gulf of an open grave. 

He sent the beam of the lantern dart- 
ing down into it and saw that the coffin- 
lid was broken and shattered, and that 
the sarcophagus itself was empty. Even 
before the light searched out the inscrip- 
tion upon the wooden slab at the head of 
the violated grave he knew what would 
be painted there. 

Beside him Karl caught his breath in 
a gasp of fear. But Johann merely stood 
silent, swaying a little, the dank wind 
blowing coldly across his wet face, and 
his thoughts were a chaotic swirl in 
which horror and grief and anger were 
mingled. Out of his poignant grief and 
his horror, fierce anger racked his fever- 
ish brain with surges of red rage that 
shook him with their intensity. Under 
his shirt he felt the bulk of the pistol, and 
he gripped it fiercely. Elsa! Her slim 
white body the prey of the ghoul! Sud- 
denly all Johann’s fear was forgotten in 
his blinding, overwhelming anger. 

Karl was tugging at his arm. He 
turned to meet his cousin’s frightened 
gaze. "Johann! What are you waiting 
for? We can’t stay here. It . , , it has 
walked again!” 

"No!” Johann barked out the word 
fiercely, his eyes blazing. "Elsa ” 

“It’s too late, Johann! Elsa is gone.” 

"Is it too late for vengeance?” Johann 
asked quietly, and at his words Karl 


618 


iWEIRD TALES 


shrank back, stark amazement in his 
face. 

"Vengeance?” He whispered the word 
fearfully, and a shudder racked him. He 
shot an apprehensive glance into the dim- 
ness about them. Then he said, still 
whispering, "You are mad, Johann.” 

Deliberately Johann drew out his pis- 
tol. "Very well, I am mad. But . . » 

Karl, if it were your wife ” He 

broke off, his lips twitching, and when 
he resumed, his voice was chill with in- 
flexible purpose. "Listen to me, Karl; 
I’m going to make someone — god, man 
or devil! — suffer for this crime!” He 
glanced at the black gulf of the violated 
grave. "So go home, Karl. You can’t 
help me now.” 

Karl opened his mouth, but the words 
died in his throat. His eyes flashed past 
Johann’s shoulder, and into them sprang 
a look of panic fear. With a strangled 
scream he spun about and went racing off, 
his footsteps disquietingly loud in the 
chill, empty silence. 

J OHANN turned quickly. At first he 
saw nothing in the dim starlight. 
Then, far away, he saw a faint movement 
among the tombs. There was a flicker of 
motion in the distance where an ancient 
mausoleum stood all alone on the side of 
a little hillock. He waited, scarcely 
breathing, for a time, but there was no 
further movement at the distant tomb. 

Karl’s footsteps had died away, and 
there was not a sound to be heard. Johann 
fingered the pistol irresolutely. Then he 
thrust it back in his shirt and hurriedly 
made his way among the graves to where 
the mausoleum stood on the knoll pale 
and ominous in the starlight. The tomb 
was incredibly ancient and weathered, 
overgrown with a thick coating of lichen 
that draped it like gray spider-webs. 
There was an inscription above the door, 
but save for the single word maranatha 


it was illegible. Johann did not pause td 
examine it after he saw that the great 
stone portal was open. With cold rage 
surging within him he stepped over the 
threshold and sent the light darting 
about the tomb. 

It was empty. Bare, granite walls met 
his gaze, but there was a door of rusted 
metal set in the further wall, and this 
was ajar. Johann squeezed through the 
gap and held the lantern high. 

He was in an empty passage, paved 
with great stone slabs, sloping down into 
the side of the little hill. A faint whis- 
pering sound, like the slithering of water 
over jagged rocks, was audible, and 
Johann cautiously advanced. The passage 
turned and twisted in the rock, but it con- 
tinued to descend steeply, and twice 
Johann passed the black mouths of side 
tunnels. Now the faint whispering was 
louder. He recognized the sound of 
voices, but there was a curious squeaking 
and snarling that puzzled him — a sound 
such as might originate in a nest of rats. 

The cold tide of sanity was slowly ris- 
ing in Johann’s brain, and misgivings 
were beginning to assail him; but the 
thought of Elsa’s looted grave enabled 
him to force them out of his mind. He 
replaced the slide on the lantern and 
moved forward in utter darkness, feeling 
his way and straining to distinguish an 
intelligible word from the babble of chat- 
terings and whisperings that he heard. 
Slowly he advanced, sliding his hand 
along the wall. And suddenly a voice 
sounded distinct and clear above the sly 
mutterings. 

It was harsh and grating, possessing a 
curious quality of depth, as though it 
came from far underground. And it said 
distinctly, “. . . has been gone long.” 

A wave of fear came rushing up to 
overwhelm Johann, and he clung desper- 
ately to the thought of Elsa and his ven- 
geance. Fighting back his horror, he 


IT WALKS BY NIGHT 


619 


edged forward. And as though at a signal 
a sudden silence fell. 

Johann caught a whisper. "* , , will 
be bacL To bring us food.” 

Behind him there was a rustling, swift- 
ly growing louder! In the blackness noth- 
ing was visible, but Johann flung himself 
flat against the wall. The rustling swept 
past him, and for a moment an overpow- 
ering stench filled his nostrils. He was 
conscious that something had passed close 
to him, something he could not see for 
the darkness, although he felt sick and 
giddy with its passing. He leaned against 
the wall, grateful for its support, and the 
whisperings and shrillings broke out 
afresh, this time with an eery note of dis- 
appointment. 

A new voice spoke, a quiet, emotion- 
less voice with a dreadful feline purr in 
it. "No food could I find, my ancestors. 
No food or drink.” 

"Must we go hungry.^” another voice 
whined, and a plaintive series of cries 
burst from the grim darkness that pulsed 
with unseen, horrific life. "You must 
feed us!” "It is your duty!” "We are 
unable.” 

A deeper voice spoke. "You must ful- 
fill your trust! Each of us fed our an- 
cestors who could not feed themselves. 
And it is your duty to find us food. 
When in time you, too, become like us, 
unable to go forth to search out the new 
graves, you will expect the next heir to 
fulfill his duty.” 

"I foimd food for you two nights ago,” 
the other voice purred, and Johann caught 
his breath and shuddered in the shielding 
darkness, 

"It is your trust and your privilege!” 
the deep voice cut in, brittle and harsh. 
"This is the curse and the blessing of our 
blood, that knows no other life after — • 
death.” 

"But there are so many!” cried the 
other, and a stifled gasp of fear came 


from Johann’s stiff lips. A taut silence 
fell, and the msm turned to ice. 

Past him went a soft rustling, almost 
brushing his numb body, swiftly dying 
away. Then there was no sound, only the 
charnel darkness that pressed silently 
upon him. And behind him he heard a 
heavy thud. 

S TUNG into life, Johann spun about 
and in an agony of fear went racing 
back through the twisted corridor, back to 
the open air and the clean starlight. 

He felt a heavy blow on his chest, and 
staggered back, almost falling, the lan- 
tern slipping from his grasp and thud- 
ding to the ground. As he tottered there 
in the blackness he heard the abominable 
rustling go past him again and fade into 
silence. Gasping, uttering little moans, 
he fell on his hands and knees and groped 
frantically for the lantern. 

For a moment it eluded his clutdiing 
fingers, and Johann felt the skin of his 
back crawling with the expectation of an 
attack. Then with a sob of relief he 
found the lantern and snatched off the 
slide, praying that it had not gone out. 

It had not. A yellow beam of light 
pitilessly illuminated the thing that had 
halted Johann’s flight — ^the great door in 
the tomb, the door by which he had 
entered ffiis Cimmerian cave of night and 
horror. But now it was no longer ajar. 

He realized what had happened. The 
rustling that had passed him, the heavy 
thud! The creature— Johann dared not 
give it a name — had slipped past him and 
closed the door to prevent his escape. 

Breathing heavily, Johann put down 
the lantern and examined the door. There 
were no handles or knobs; it was a bare, 
rivet-studded plate of rusty metal. He 
braced his shoulder against it and 
strained until his head swam, but he 
could not move the door. 

Again swift anger mounted within 


620 


[WEIRD TALES 


him, and the thought of Elsa supplied 
the spark to the tinder-box of his fury. 
With rage and fear battling within him 
he drew out his pistol, examined it to see 
if the moisture of the vault had damped 
the charge, and slowly began to retrace 
his steps. He paused occasionally to 
flash the light behind him, but nothing 
lurked at his heels — nothing but the black 
tunnel-mouths that seemed to watch him 
ominously. And presently he saw that he 
was on the threshold of an archway that 
led into silent, unstirring darkness. 

Twice Johann went forward, and twice 
he retreated in fear. At last he raised 
the pistol and stepped over the threshold, 
swiftly flashing the light about the great 
vault in which he stood. 

For a moment he thought he was con- 
fronting an array of mummies, withered 
and dry. They were lying against the 
walls in grotesque postures, a dozen 
brown wrinkled bodies, some of them 
merely skeletons with wrinkled dark skin 
stretched over their bones. The floor was 
buried beneath a carpet of bones, ranging 
in color from crumbled black to shining 
white bones on which the marks of gnaw- 
ing were dreadfully evident. At Johann’s 
feet a skull grinned up at him in a grim 
mockery of mirth. 

As the light gleamed through the tomb 
a frightful rustling and a stir went over 
the withered bodies. There was a mon- 
strous shifting and squirming, and Johann 
saw moving what should never move, 
what should always lie silent and still and 
dead under the coffin-lid. The things 
crawled about like maggots blindly creep- 
ing away from the light, and Johann still 


stood there, the lantern in one hand and 
his pistol in the other, without moving a 
muscle or turning his eyes from the 
charnel horror before him. The light 
gleamed on cold, shiny eyes staring at 
him speculatively. 

Behind him came the rustling, and 
Johann swung about, his light stabbing 
out through the blackness. Far down the 
passage a vague figure was moving toward 
him, slowly, implacably. Behind him 
came an outburst of abominable squeak- 
ings and whistlings. 

Johann jerked up his pistol, the 
thought of Elsa steadying his hand. He 
would wait until the thing was almost 
upon him, and then . . . but his fear 
betrayed him. The crash of the explosion 
sent sharp echoes rolling through the 
vault. 

The dreadful form did not pause. It 
glided onward, silently save for the faint 
rustling of garments, and Johann took a 
step back. Something clutched at his 
ankle, and in a frenzy of fear he kicked 
free. For a second he had turned his back 
on the half-seen figure that was inexorably 
drawing nearer, and when he swung 
about, it was almost upon him. There 
was no time to reload the pistol; Johann 
flung up his arm as though the lantern 
had been a weapon. 

Two things happened almost simulta- 
neously. A purring, gloating voice came 
from the dim form, and it said tri- 
umphantly, "We shall not go hungry!’’ 
And the light revealed the face of the ap- 
proaching horror, and Johann dropped 
the lantern and began to scream, over and 
over, "Elsa! Elsa!" 



J p 

Qj as 


assion in the Desert 


By HONORE DE BALZAC 


“P ki "^HE whole show is dreadful,” 
I she cried, coming out of the 
menagerie of Monsieur Martin. 
She had just been looking at that daring 
speculator "working with his hyena,” to 
speak in the style of the program. 

"By what means,” she continued, "can 
he have tamed these animals to such a 
point as to be certain of their affection 
for ” 

"What seems to you a problem,” said 
I, interrupting, "is really quite natural.” 

"Oh!” she cried, letting an incredulous 
smile wander over her lips. 

"You think that beasts are wholly with- 
out passions?” I asked her. "Quite the 
reverse; we can communicate to them all 
the vices arising in our own state of civili- 
zation.” 

She looked at me with an air of aston- 
ishment. 

"Nevertheless,” I continued, "the first 
time I saw Monsieur Martin, I admit, like 
you, I did give vent to an exclamation of 
surprize. I found myself next to an old 
soldier with the right leg amputated, who 
had come in with me. His face had struck 
me. He had one of those intrepid heads. 
Stamped with the seal of warfare, and on 


which the battles of Napoleon are writ- 
ten. Besides, he had that frank good- 
humored expression which always im- 
presses me favorably. He was without 
doubt one of those troopers who are sur- 
prized at nothing, who find matter for 
laughter in the contortions of a dying 
comrade, who bury or plunder him quite 
light-heartedly, who stand intrepidly in 
the way of bullets; in fact, one of those 
men who waste no time in deliberation, 
and would not hesitate to make friends 
with the devil himself. After looking 
very attentively at the proprietor of the 
menagerie getting out of his box, my 
companion pursed up his lips with an air 
of mockery and contempt, with that pe- 
culiar and expressive twist which superior 
people assume to show they are not taken 
in. Then when I was expatiating on the 
courage of Monsieur Martin, he smiled, 
shook his head knowingly, and said, 
'Well known.’ 

" 'How "well known”?’ I said. 'If 
you would only explain to me the mystery 
I should be vastly obliged. 

"After a few minutes, during which 
we made acquaintance, we went to dine 
at the first restaurateur's whose shop 

621 


622 


lWEIRD tales 


caught our eye. At dessert a bottle of 
champagne completely refreshed and 
brightened up the memories of this odd 
old soldier. He told me his story, and I 
said that he had every reason to exclaim, 
’.Well known.’ ” 

m * * 

W HEN she got home, she teased me 
to that extent, and made so many 
promises, that I consented to communi- 
cate to her the old soldier’s confidences. 
Next day she received the following epi- 
sode of an epic which one might call 
"The Frenchman in Egypt.’’ 

During the expedition in Upper Egypt 
under General Desaix, a Provencal sol- 
dier fell into the hands of the Mangra- 
bins, and was taken by these Arabs into 
the deserts beyond the falls of the Nile. 

In order to place a sufficient distance 
between themselves and the French army, 
the Mangrabins made forced marches, 
and only rested during the night. They 
camped round a well overshadowed by 
palm trees under which they had previ- 
ously concealed a store of provisions. Not 
surmising that the notion of flight would 
occur to their prisoner, they contented 
themselves with binding his hands, and 
after eating a few dates, and giving prov- 
ender to their horses, went to sleep. 

When the brave Provencal saw that his 
enemies were no longer watching him, he 
made use of his teeth to steal a simitar, 
fixed the blade between his knees, and 
cut the cords which prevented using his 
hands; in a moment he was free. He at 
once seized a rifle and a dagger; then, 
taking the precaution to provide himself 
with a sack of dried dates, oats, and pow- 
der and shot, and to fasten a simitar to 
his waist, he leaped onto a horse, and 
spurred on vigorously in the direction 
where he thought to find the French 
army. So impatient was he to see a biv- 
ouac again that he pressed on the already 


tired courser at such speed that its flanks 
were lacerated with his spurs, and at last 
the poor animal died, leaving the French- 
man alone in the desert. After walking 
some time in the sand with all the courage 
of an escaped convict, the soldier was 
obliged to stop, as the day had already 
ended. In spite of the beauty of an Orb 
ental sky at night, he felt he had not 
strength enough to go on. Fortunately he 
had been able to find a small hill, on the 
summit of which a few palm trees shot 
up into the air; it was their verdure seen 
from afar which had brought hope and 
consolation to his heart. His fatigue was 
so great that he lay down upon a rock of 
granite, capriciously cut out like a camp- 
bed; there he fell asleep without taking 
any precaution to defend himself while 
he slept. He had made the sacrifice of his 
life. His last thought was one of regret. 
He repented having left the Mangrabins, 
whose nomad life seemed to smile on 
him now that he was afar from them and 
without help. 

He was awakened by the sun, whose 
pitiless rays fell with all their force on 
the granite and produced an intolerable 
heat — for he had had the stupidity to 
place himself inversely to the shadow 
thrown by the verdant majestic heads of 
the palm trees. He looked at the solitary 
trees and shuddered — they reminded him 
of the graceful shafts crowned with foli- 
age which characterize the Saracen col- 
umns in the cathedral of Arles. 

But when, after counting the palm 
trees, he cast his eyes around him, the 
most horrible despair was infused into 
his soul. Before him stretched an ocean 
without limit. The dark sand of the des- 
ert spread farther than sight could reach 
in every direction, and glittered like steel 
struck with bright light. It might have 
been a sea of looking-glass, or lakes 
melted together in a mirror. A fiery va- 
por carried up in streaks made a perpetual 


A PASSION IN THE DESERT 


623 


whirlwind over the quivering land. The 
sky was lit with an Oriental splendor of 
insupportable purity, leaving naught for 
the imagination to desire. Heaven and 
earth were on fire. 

The silence was awful in its wild and 
terrible majesty. Infinity, immensity, 
closed in upon the soul from every side. 
Not a cloud in the sky, not a breath in 
the air, not a flaw on the bosom of the 
sand, ever moving in diminutive waves; 
the horizon ended as at sea on a clear day, 
with one line of light, definite as the cut 
of a sword. 

The Provencal threw his arms round 
the trunk of one of the palm trees, as 
though it were the body of a friend, and 
then in the shelter of the thin straight 
shadow that the palm cast upon the gran- 
ite, he wept. Then sitting down he re- 
mained as he was, contemplating with 
profound sadness the implacable scene, 
which was all he had to look upon. He 
cried aloud, to measure the solitude. His 
voice, lost in the hollows of the hill, 
sounded faintly, and aroused no echo — 
the echo was in his own heart. The Pro- 
vencal was only twenty-two years old. He 
loaded his carbine. 

''There’ll be time enough,” he said to 
himself, laying on the ground the weapon 
which alone could bring him deliverance. 

Looking by turns at the black expanse 
and the blue expanse, the soldier dreamed 
of France — he smelt with delight the gut- 
ters of Paris — he remembered the towns 
through which he had passed, the faces 
of his fellow-soldiers, the most minute 
details of his life. His southern fancy 
soon showed him the stones of his be- 
loved Provence, in the play of the heat 
which waved over the spread sheet of 
the desert. Fearing the danger of this 
cruel mirage, he went down the opposite 
side of the hill to that by which he had 
come up the day before. The remains of 
a rug showed that this place of refuge 


had at one time been inhabited; at a short 
distance he saw some palm trees full of 
dates. Then the instinct which binds us 
to life awoke again in his heart. He 
hoped to live long enough to await the 
passing of some Arabs, or perhaps he 
might hear the sound of cannon; for at 
this time Bonaparte was traversing Egypt, 

This thought gave him new life. TTie 
palm tree seemed to bend with the weight 
of the ripe fruit. He shook some of it 
down. 'When he tasted this unhoped-for 
manna, he felt sure that the palms had 
been cultivated by a former inhabitant — • 
the savory, fresh meat of the dates was 
proof of the care of his predecessor. He 
passed suddenly from dark despair to an 
almost insane joy. He went up again to 
the top of the hill, and spent the rest of 
the day in cutting down one of the sterile 
palm trees, which the night before had 
served him for shelter. A vague memory^ 
made him think of the animals of the des- 
ert; and in case they might come to drink 
at the spring, visible from the base of the 
rocks but lost farther down, he resolved 
to guard himself from their visits by plac- 
ing a barrier at the entrance of his her- 
mitage. 

In spite of his diligence, and the 
strength which the fear of being devoured 
asleep gave him, he was unable to cut the 
palm in pieces, though he succeeded in 
cutting it down. At eventide the king of 
the desert fell; the sound of its fall re- 
sounded far and wide, like a sigh in the 
solitude; the soldier shuddered as though 
he had heard some voice predicting wo. 

But like an heir who does not long be- 
wail a deceased parent, he tore off from 
this beautiful tree the tall broad green 
leaves which are its poetic adornment, 
and used them to mend the mat on which 
he was to sleep. 

Fatigued by the heat and his work, he 
fell asleep under the red curtains of his 
wet cave. 


624 


WEIRD TALES 


I N THE middle of the night his sleep 
was troubled by an extraordinary noise. 
He sat up, and the deep silence around 
him allowed him to distinguish the ac- 
cents of a respiration whose savage 
energy could not belong to a human 
creature. 

A profound terror, increased still fur- 
ther by the darkness, the silence, and his 
waking images, froze his heart within 
him. He almost felt his hair stand on 
end, when by straining his eyes to their 
utmost he perceived through the shadows 
two faint yellow lights. At first he attrib- 
uted these lights to the reflection of his 
own pupils, but soon the vivid brilliance 
of the night aided him gradually to dis- 
tinguish the objects around him in the 
cave, and he beheld a huge animal lying 
but two steps from him. Was it a lion, a 
tiger, or a crocodile? 

The Provencal was not educated enough 
to know under what species his enemy 
ought to be classed; but his fright was all 
the greater, as his ignorance led him to 
imagine all terrors at once; he endured a 
cruel torture, noting every variation of the 
breathing close to him without daring to 
make the slightest movement. An odor, 
pungent like that of a fox, but more pen- 
etrating, profounder — so to speak — filled 
the cave, and when the Provencal became 
sensible of this, his terror reached its 
height, for he could not longer doubt the 
proximity of a terrible companion, whose 
royal dwelling served him for shelter. 

Presently the reflection of the moon, 
descending on the horizon, lit up the den, 
rendering gradually visible and resplen- 
dent the spotted skin of a panther. 

This lion of Egypt slept, curled up like 
a big dog, the peaceful possessor of a 
sumptuous niche at the gate of an inn; 
its eyes opened for a moment and closed 
again; its face was turned toward the 
man. A thousand confused thoughts 
passed through the Frenchman’s mind; 


first he thought of killing it with a bullet 
from his gun, but he saw there was not 
enough distance between them for him 
to take proper aim — the shot would miss 
the mark. And if it were to wake! — the 
thought made his limbs rigid. He lis- 
tened to his own heart beating in the 
midst of the silence, and cursed the too 
violent pulsations which the flow of blood 
brought on, fearing to disturb that sleep 
which allowed him time to think of some 
means of escape. 

Twice he placed his hand on his simi- 
tar, intending to cut off the head of his 
enemy; but the difficulty of cutting the 
stiff, short hair compelled him to aban- 
don this daring project. To miss would 
be to die for certain, he thought; he pre- 
ferred the chances of fair fight, and made 
up his mind to wait till morning. The 
morning did not leave him long to wait. 

He could now examine the panther at 
ease; its muzzle was smeared with blood. 

"She’s had a good dinner,’’ he thought, 
without troubling himself as to whether 
her feast might have been on human 
flesh. "She won’t be hungry when she 
gets up.’’ 

It was a female. The fur on her belly 
and flanks was glistening white; many 
small marks like velvet formed beautiful 
bracelets round her feet; her sinuous tail 
was also white, ending with black rings; 
the overpart of her dress, yellow like un- 
burnished gold, very lissom and soft, had 
the characteristic blotches in the form of 
rosettes, which distinguish the panther 
from every other feline species. 

This tranquil and formidable hostess 
snored in an attitude as graceful as that 
of a cat lying on a cushion. Her blood- 
stained paws, nervous and well-armed, 
were stretched out before her face, which 
rested upon them, and from which radi- 
ated her straight, slender whiskers, like 
threads of silver. 

If she had been like that in a cage, 

W. T.— 7 


A PASSION IN THE DESERT 


625 


the Provencal would have admired the 
grace of the animal, and the vigorous 
contrasts of vivid color which gave her 
robe an imperial splendor; but just then 
his sight was troubled by her sinister ap- 
pearance. 

The presence of the panther, even 
asleep, could not fail to produce the ef- 
fect which the magnetic eyes of the ser- 
pent are said to have on the nightingale. 

For a moment the courage of the sol- 
dier began to fail before this danger, 
though no doubt it would have risen at 
the mouth of a cannon charged with shell. 
Nevertheless, a bold thought brought 
daylight to his soul and sealed up the 
source of the cold sweat which sprang 
forth on his brow. Like men driven to 
bay who defy death and offer their body 
to the smiter, so he, seeing in this merely 
a tragic episode, resolved to play his part 
with honor to the last, 

"The day before yesterday the Arabs 


would have killed me, perhaps,” he said; 
so considering himself as good as dead 
already, he waited bravely, with excited 
curiosity, his enemy’s awakening. 

W HEN the sun appeared, the panther 
suddenly opened her eyes; then she 
put out her paws with energy, as if to 
stretch them and get rid of cramp. At 
last she yawned, showing the formidable 
apparatus of her teeth and pointed 
tongue, rough as a file. 

"A regular petite maitresse,” thought 
the Frenchman, seeing her roll herself 
about so softly and coquettishly. She 
licked off the blood which stained her 
paws and muzzle, and scratched her head 
with reiterated gestures full of prettiness. 
"All right, make a little toilet,” the 
Frenchman said to himself, beginning to 
recover his gayety with his courage; "we’ll 
say good morning to each other present- 
( Please turn to page 626 ) 


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626 


WEIRD TALES 


A Passion in the Desert 

( Continued from preceding page ) 


ly,” and he seized the small, short dagger 

which he had taken from the Mangra- 

bins. At this moment the panther turned 

her head toward the man and looked at 

him fixedly without moving. 

♦ 

The rigidity of her metallic eyes and 
their insupportable luster made him shud- 
der, especially when the animal walked 
toward him. But he looked at her caress- 
ingly, staring into her eyes in order to 
magnetize her, and let her come quite 
close to him; then with a movement both 
gentle and amorous, as though he were 
caressing the most beautiful of women, 
he passed his hand over her whole body, 
from the head to the tail, scratching the 
flexible vertebrae which divided the pan- 
ther’s yellow back. The animal waved 
her tail voluptuously, and her eyes grew 
gentle; and when for the third time the 
Frenchman accomplished this interesting 
flattery, she gave forth one of those pur- 
rings by which our cats express their 
pleasure; but this murmur issued from 
a throat so powerful and so deep, that it 
resounded through the cave like the last 
vibrations of an organ in a church. The 
man, understanding the importance of his 
caresses, redoubled them in such a way as 
to surprize and stupefy his imperious 
courtezan. When he felt sure of having 
extinguished the ferocity of his capricious 
companion, whose hunger had so fortu- 
nately been satisfied the day before, he got 
up to go out of the cave; the panther let 
him go out, but when he had reached the 
summit of the hill she sprang with the 
lightness of a sparrow hopping from twig 
to twig, and rubbed herself against his 
legs, putting up her back after the man- 
ner of all the race of cats. Then regard- 
ing her guest with eyes whose glare had 
softened a little, she gave vent to that 


wild cry which naturalists compare to the 
grating of a saw. 

"She is exacting,” said the Frenchman, 
smiling. 

He was bold enough to play with her 
ears; he caressed her belly and scratched 
her head as hard as he could. 

When he saw that he was successful, 
he tickled her skull with the point of his 
dagger, watching for the right moment 
to kill her, but the hardness of her bones 
made him tremble for his success. 

The sultana of the desert showed her- 
self gracious to her slave; she lifted her 
head, stretched out her neck, and mani- 
fested her delight by the tranquillity of 
her attitude. It suddenly occurred to the 
soldier that to kill this savage princess 
with one blow he must stab her in the 
throat. 

He raised the blade, when the panther, 
satisfied no doubt, laid herself gracefully 
at his feet, and cast up at him glances in 
which, in spite of their natural fierceness, 
was mingled confusedly a kind of good- 
will. The poor Provencal ate his dates, 
leaning against one of the palm trees, and 
casting his eyes alternately on the desert 
in quest of some liberator and on his ter- 
rible companion to watch her uncertain 
clemency. 

The panther looked at the place where 
the date stones fell, and every time that 
he threw one down her eyes expressed an 
incredible mistrust. 

She examined the man with an almost 
commercial prudence. However, this ex- 
amination was favorable to him, for when 
he had finished his meager meal she 
licked his boots with her powerful rough 
tongue, brushing off with marvelous skill 
the dust gathered in the creases. 

"Ah, but when she’s really hungry!’* 


A PASSION IN THE DESERT 


627 


thought the Frenchman. In spite of the 
shudder this thought caused him, the sol- 
dier began to measure curiously the pro- 
portions of the panther, certainly one of 
the most splendid specimens of its race. 
She was three feet high and four feet long 
without counting her tail; this powerful 
weapon, rounded like a cudgel, was nearly 
three feet long. The head, large as that 
of a lioness, was distinguished by a rare 
expression of refinement. The cold cru- 
elty of a tiger was dominant, it was true, 
but there was also a vague resemblance to 
the face of a sensual woman. Indeed, the 
face of this solitary queen had something 
of the gayety of a drunken Nero: she had 
satiated herself with blood, and she 
wanted to play. 

The soldier tried if he might walk up 
and down, and the panther left him free, 
contenting herself with following him 
with her eyes, less like a faithful dog than 


a big Angora cat, observing every move- 
ment of her master. 

When he looked round, he saw, by the 
spring, the remains of his horse; the pan- 
ther had dragged the carcass all that way; 
about two-thirds of it had been devoured 
already. The sight reassured him. 

It was easy to explain the panther’s ab- 
sence, and the respect she had had for him 
while he slept. The first piece of good 
luck emboldened him to tempt the future, 
and he conceived the wild hope of con- 
tinuing on good terms with the panther 
during the entire day, neglecting no 
means of taming her and remaining in 
her good graces. 

He returned to her, and had the un- 
speakable joy of seeing her wag her tail 
with an almost imperceptible movement 
at his approach. He sat down then, with- 
out fear, by her side, and they began to 
(Please turn to page 628 ) 


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(628 


WEIRD TALES 


A Passion in the Desert 

( Continued from preceding page ) 


play together; he took her paws and muz- 
zle, pulled her ears, rolled her over on her 
back, stroked her warm, delicate flanks. 
She let him do whatever he liked, and 
when he began to stroke the hair on her 
feet she drew her claws in carefully. 

The man, keeping the dagger in one 
hand, thought to plunge it into the belly 
of the too-confiding panther, but he was 
afraid that he would be immediately 
strangled in her last convulsive struggle; 
besides, he felt in his heart a sort of re- 
morse which bid him respect a creature 
that had done him no harm. He seemed 
to have found a friend, in a boundless 
desert; half unconsciously he thought of 
his first sweetheart, whom he had nick- 
named "Mignonne” by way of contrast, 
because she was so atrociously jealous that 
all the time of their love he was in fear 
of the knife with which she had always 
threatened him. 

This memory of his early days sug- 
gested to him the idea of making the 
young panther answer to this name, now 
that he began to admire with less terror 
her swiftness, suppleness, and softness. 
Toward the end of the day he had fa- 
miliarized himself with his perilous posi- 
tion; he now almost liked the painfulness 
of it. At last his companion had got into 
the habit of looking up at him whenever 
he cried in a falsetto voice, "Mignonne.” 

At the setting of the sun Mignonne 
gave, several times running, a profound 
melancholy cry. "She’s been well brought 
up,” said the light-hearted soldier; "she 
says her prayers.” But this mental joke 
only occurred to him when he noticed 
what a pacific attitude his companion re- 
mained in. "Come, ma petite blonde, I’ll 
let you go to bed first,” he said to her, 
counting on the activity of his own legs to 


run away as quickly as possible, directly 
she was asleep, and seek another shelter 
for the night. 

T he soldier waited with impatience 
the hour of his flight, and when it 
had arrived he walked vigorously in the 
direction of the Nile; but hardly had he 
made a quarter of a league in the sand 
when he heard the panther bounding 
after him, crying with that saw-like cry 
more dreadful even than the sound of her 
leaping. 

"Ah!” he said, "then she’s taken a 
fancy to me; she has never met anyone 
before, and it is really quite flattering to 
have her first love.” 'That instant the man 
fell into one of those movable quicksands 
so terrible to travelers and from which 
it is impossible to save oneself. Feeling 
himself caught, he gave a shriek of alarm; 
the panther seized him with her teeth by 
the collar, and, springing vigorously back- 
ward, drew him as if by magic out of the 
whirling sand. 

"Ah, Mignonne!” cried the soldier, ca- 
ressing her enthusiastically; "we’re bound 
together for life and death — but no jokes, 
mind!” and he retraced his steps. 

From that time the desert seemed in- 
habited. It contained a being to whom 
the man could talk, and whose ferocity 
was rendered gentle by him, though he 
could not explain to himself the reason 
for their strange friendship. Great as was 
the soldier’s desire to stay upon guard, he 
slept. 

On awakening he could not find Mig- 
nonne; he mounted the hill, and in the 
distance saw her springing toward him 
after the habit of these animals, who can 
not run on account of the extreme flexi- 
bility of the vertebral column. Mignonne 


iWEIRD TALES 


629 ! 


arrived, her Jaws covered with blood; she 
received the wonted caress of her com- 
panion, showing with much purring how 
happy it made her. Her eyes, full of lan- 
guor, turned still more gently than the 
day before toward the Provencal, who 
talked to her as one would to a tame ani- 
mal. 

"Ah! Mademoiselle, you are a nice girl, 
aren’t you? Just look at that! So we like 
to be made much of, don’t we? Aren’t 
you ashamed of yourself? So you have 
been eating some Arab or other, have 
you? 'That doesn’t matter. They’re 
animals just the same as you are; but 
don’t you take to eating Frenchmen, or 
I shan’t like you any longer.’’ 

She played like a dog with its master, 
letting herself be rolled over, knocked 
about, and stroked, alternately; sometimes 
she herself would provoke the soldier, 
putting up her paw with a soliciting ges- 
ture. 

Some days passed in this manner. This 
companionship permitted the Provencal 
to appreciate the sublime beauty of the 
desert; now that he had a living thing to 
think about, alternations of fear and 
cjuiet, and plenty to eat, his mind became 
filled with contrast and his life began to 
be diversified. 

Solitude revealed to him all her secrets, 
and enveloped him in her delights. He 
discovered in the rising and setting of the 
sun sights unknown to the world. He 
knew what it was to tremble when he 
heard over his head the hiss of a bird’s 
wing, so rarely did they pass, or when he 
saw the clouds, changing and many-col- 
ored travelers, melt one into another. He 
studied in the night-time the effect of the 
I moon upon the ocean of sand, where the 
: simoon made waves swift of movement 
i and rapid in their change. He lived the 
j life of the Eastern day, marveling at its 
wonderful pomp; then, after having rev- 
eled in the sight of a hurricane over the 



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630 


^JTEIRD TALES 


plain where the whirling sands made red, 
dry mists and death-bearing clouds, he 
would welcome the night with joy, for 
then fell the healthful freshness of the 
stars, and he listened to imaginary music 
in the skies. 

At last he grew passionately fond of 
the panther; for some sort of affection 
was a necessity. 

Whether it was that his will, power- 
fully projected, had modified the charac- 
ter of his companion, or whether, because 
she found abundant food in her predatory 
excursions in the deserts, she respected 
the man’s life, he began to fear for it no 
longer, seeing her so well tamed. 

He devoted the greater part of his 
time to sleep, but he was obliged to watch 
like a spider in its web that the moment 
of his deliverance might not escape him, 
if anyone should pass the line marked by 
the horizon. He had sacrificed his shirt 
to make a flag with, which he hung at the 
top of a palm tree, whose foliage he had 
torn off. Taught by necessity, he found 
the means of keeping it spread out, by 
fastening it with little sticks; for the wind 
might not be blowing at the moment 
when the passing traveler was looking 
through the desert. 

It was during the long hours, when he 
had abandoned hope, that he amused 
himself with the panther.. He had come 
to learn the different inflections of her 
voice, the expressions of her eyes; he had 
studied the capricious patterns of all the 
rosettes which marked the gold of her 
robe. Mignonne was not even angry 
when he took hold of the tuft at the end 
of her tail to count the rings, those grace- 
ful ornaments which glittered in the sun 
like jewelry. It gave him pleasure to con- 
template the supple, fine outlines of her 
form, the whiteness of her belly, the 
graceful pose of her head. But it was 
especially when she was playing that he 
felt most pleasure in looking at her; the 


agility and youthful lightness of her 
movements were a continual surprize to 
him; he wondered at the supple way ia 
which she jumped and climbed, washed 
herself and arranged her fur, crouched 
down and prepared to spring. However 
rapid her spring might be, however slip- 
pery the stone she was on, she would 
always stop short at the word * 'Mig- 
nonne.” 

One day, in a bright midday sun, an 
enormous bird coursed through the air. 
The man left his panther to look at this 
new guest; but after waiting a moment 
the deserted sultana growled deeply. 

'My goodness! I do believe she’s 
jealous,” he cried, seeing her q^es become 
hard again; "the soul of Virginie has 
passed into her body; that’s certain.” 

The eagle disappeared into the air, 
while the soldier admired the curved con- 
tour of the panther. 

But there was such youth and grace in 
her form! she was beautiful as a woman! 
the blond fur of her robe mingled well 
with the delicate tints of faint white 
which marked her flanks. 

The profuse light cast down by the 
sun made this living gold, these russet 
markings, to burn in a way to give them 
an indefinable attraction. 

The man and the panther looked at 
each other with a look full of meaning; 
the coquette quivered when she felt her 
friend stroke her head; her eyes flashed 
like lightning — then she shut them 
tightly. 

"She has a soul,” he said, looking at 
the stillness of this queen of the sands, 
golden like them, white like them, soli' 
tary and burning like them. 

“TT 7 ELL,” she said, "I have read youC 

W plea in favor of beasts; but how. 


WEIRD TALES 


63 * 


'did two so well adapted to understand 
each other end?” 

”Ah, well! you see, they ended as all 
great passions do end — by a misunder- 
standing. For some reason one suspects 
the other of treason; they don’t come to 
an explanation through pride, and quar- 
rel and part from sheer obstinacy.” 

“Yet sometimes at the best moments a 
single word or a look is enough — but any- 
how go on with your story.” 

"It’s horribly difficult, but you will 
imderstand, after what the old 'villain 
told me over his champagne. 

“He said, 'I don’t know if I hurt her, 
but she turned round, as if enraged, and 
with her sharp teeth caught hold of my 
leg — gently, I daresay; but I, thinking 
she would devour me, plunged my dag- 
ger into her throat. She rolled over, giv- 
ing a cry that froze my heart; and I saw 
her dying, still looking at me without 
anger. I would have given all the world 
to have brought her to life again. It 
was as though I had murdered a real 
person; and the soldiers who had seen 
my flag, and were come to my assistance, 
found me in tears. 

“ "Well, sir,’ he said, after a moment 
of silence, 'since then I have been in war 
in Germany, in Spain, in Russia, in 
France; I’ve certainly carried my carcass 
about a good deal, but never have I seen 
anything like the desert. Ah! yes, it is 
very beautiful!’ 

" 'What did you feel there?’ I asked. 

“ 'Oh! that can’t be described, young 
man. Besides, I am not always regretting 
my palm trees and my panther. I should 
have to be very melan^oly for that. In 
the desert, you see, there is everything, 
and nothing.' 

\ “ 'Yes, but explain ’ 

i “ 'Well,’ he said, with an impatient 
' gesture, 'it is God without mankind.’ ” 


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T he controversy over our cover de- 
signs has burst wide open again, fol- 
lowing our using a cover painted by 
J. Allen St. John after more than three years 
of covers by Margaret Brundage. All in all, 
your reactions to the cover have been quite 
favorable, and it seems to be the consensus 
that we should use both Mr. St. John’s and 
Mrs. Brundage’s work. Mr. St. John is 
known throughout the world for his illus- 
trations of the Tarzan stories. The cover il- 
lustration for The Fire of Asshurbanipal in 
this issue is also his work. We have re- 
ceived many letters asking that we also use 
Virgil Finlay for one or more covers. We 
are happy to announce that Mr. Finlay will 
do the cover design for a new Seabury Quinn 
story, which will be published soon. If it is 
as good as his black and white work, then it 
should be something to talk about. 

Whooey! What a Cover! 

Jack Johnson, of Philadelphia, writes: 
"Whooey! What a cover! At first look I 
was wondering how Brundage ever drew 
such a weird cover; however, upon closer 
examination, I perceived that the drawing 
was not the delicate and fine work of 
Brundage. And sure enough, the cover was 
drawn by J. Allen St. John. Since the cover 
was so weird, I thought I was in for a good 
tale; instead, I was highly disappointed, for 
the style of the author makes the story seem 
just another adventure yarn. Nevertheless, 
there were some good scenes in the story; 
Still, it didn’t take first place. The best story 
in the issue is Robert E. Howard’s mighty 
yarn. Red Nails. I, for one, am very sorry 
that of Conan there will be no more. I hope 
that Howard’s story in the November issue 
will be as good as his Conan stories. Robert 
Bloch’s stories seem to improve with each 
one. His latest. The Opener of the Way, is 
632 


one thrilling story. Just a word about Fin- 
lay; he undoubtedly is the best artist you 
ever had. His illustrations give the stories 
much more appeal. 'The issue, all around, is 
very good.’’ 

A Good Issue 

H. P. writes from Dallas: "I have en- 
joyed Red Nails very much. Didn’t like your 
covers, but your October cover is really good. 
The blue sky is particularly effeaive coupled 
with the crimson cloaks. If you continue 
such wonderful covers I’ll always read WT. 
It surely stood out on the news stands this 
month. On previous covers the forms of 
the maidens always were distressingly slim. 
The young woman’s form on the Oaober 
issue was perfect (and still is). 'The stories 
all satisfy me, and since I am no letter- 
writer I shall conclude this epistle.’’ 

Brundage and St. John 

Robert W. Lowndes, of Canaan, Con- 
necticut, writes: "The St. John cover on the 
latest edition of WT is of more than pass- 
ing interest inasmuch as this cover is more 
objectively weird than any other you have 
had since the one illustrating The People of 
the Black Circle for September, 1934. "rhis, 
despite the fact that said cover, though 
well-chosen as to the scene represented, is a 
trifle crudely drawn and not up to the artist’s 
other front-pieces on WT. And therein lies 
one reader’s complaint; your covers (up to 
now) have all been too much of a same- 
ness. While I do not in any way disparage 
Mrs. Brundage’s delicate artistry and impec- 
cable good taste, nor decry her little gro- 
tesqueries which other readers seem to think 
a lack of anatomical observation while they 
insist these covers are not weird, I do de- 
plore rhe lack of variety thus entailed. Look, 
I implore you, at C. C. Senf’s cover foJ3 
January, 1932, illustrating The Monstet ofi 


WEIRD TALES 


635 


STATEMBN't OF THE OWNERSHIP, MAN- 
AGEMENT, CIRCULATION, ETC., RE- 
QUIRED BY THE ACT OF CONGRESS 
OF AUGUST 24, 1912, 

Of Weird Tales, published monthly at Indianapolis. 
Indiana, for October 1, 1936. 

State of Illinois \ 

County of Cook / 

Before me. a notary public in and for the State 
and county aforesaid, personally appeared Wm. R. 
Sprenger. who, having been duly sworn according 
to law, deposes and says that he ia the Business 
Manager of the Weird Tales and that the following 
Is. to the best of his knowledge and belief, a true 
statement of the ownership, management (and if 
a daily paper, the circulation), etc., of the aforesaid 
publication for the date shown in the above caption 
required by the Act of August 24. 1912, embodied 
in section 411. Postal Laws and Regulations, printed 
on the reverse of this form, to wit: 

1. That the names and addresses of the pub- 
lisher, editor, managing editor, and business man- 
ager are: 

Publisher — Popular Fiction Publishing Company, 
2457 E. Washington St.. Indianapolis, Ind. 

Editor — Farnsworth Wright, 840 N, Michigan 
Ave., Chicago, 111. 

Managing Editor— None. 

Business Manager — William R. Sprenger, 840 N. 
Michigan Ave., Chicago, 111. 

2. That the owner is: (If owned by a corpora- 
tion, its name and address must be stated and also 
Immediately thereunder the names and addresses 
of stockholders owning or holding one per cent or 
more of total amount of stock. If not owned by\A 
corporation, the names and addresses of the indi- 
vidual owners must be given. If owned by a firm, 
company, or other unincorporated concern, its name 
and address, as well as those of each individual 
member must be given.) 

Popular Fiction Publishing Company, 2457 E. 
Washington St.. Indianapolis. Ind. 

Wm. R. Sprenger, 840 N. Michigan Ave., Chi- 
cago. III. 

Farnsworth Wright, 840 N. Michigan Ave., Chi- 
cago. 111. 

George M. Cornelius, 2457 E. Washington St., In- 
dianapolis, Indiana. 

George H. Cornelius, 2457 E. Washington St., 
Indianapolis, Indiana. 

P. W. Cornelius, 2457 E. Washington St., Indian- 
apolis, Indiana. 

3. That the known bondholders, mortgagees, and 
other security holders owning or holding 1 per cent 
or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages, or 
other securities are: (If there are none, so state). 
None. 

4 . That the two paragraphs next above, giving 
the names of the owners, stockholders, and secu- 
rity holders, if any, contain not only the list of 
stockholders and security holders as they appear 
upon the books of the company, but also, in cases 
where the stockholder or security holder appears 
upon the books of the company as trustee or in any 
other fiduciary relation, the name of the person or 
corporation for whom such trustee is acting, Is 
given; also that the said two paragraphs contain 
statements embracing affiant's full knowledge and 
belief as to the circumstances and conditions under 
which stockholders and security holders who do not 
appear upon the books of the company as trustees, 
hold stock and securities in a capacity other than 
that of a bona fide owner; and this aifiant has no 
reason to believe that any other person, association, 
or corporation has any interest, direct or indirect, 
in the said stock, bonds, or other securities than 
as so stated by him. 

5. That the average number of copies of each 
issue of this publication sold or distributed, through 
the mails or otherwise, to paid subscribers during 
the twelve months preceding the date shown above 

is (This information is required from 

daily publications only.) 

WM. R. SPRENGER, 
Business Manager. 

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 26th day of 
September, 1936. M. C. TRAVERS, 

[SEAL] Notary Public. 

My commission expires February 8, 1937. 


the Prophecy. There is weirdness for you ; k 
is weird, grotesque, unearthly, and beauti- 
ful. Mrs. Brundage’s weirdness is subtle, 
delightful in its undertone and innuendo ; at 
times she approaches true objective strange- 
ness, but it is unfair to her, your steady 
readers, and your potential adherents to give 
us the same style of cover month after month 
— there have been no less than 39 consecu- 
tive covers by the same artist. None of these 
(save that gruesome error on the May, 1935, 
issue) have been bad; some have been true 
masterpieces of their type. But when one 
spreads an array of Weird Tales over a 
table and stands back at a distance to get the 
effect, the eternal sameness is quite evident; 
there is not so mudi to catch the eye as there 
would be were several artists represented and 
their several styles offset each other. The 
same case can be drawn for the potential 
reader who sees the magazine innumerable 
times on the stands before investigating. But 
this is not a tirade on how to obtain readers, 
nor would it help my point to allow it to be- 
come that. My plea is for more of the bi- 
zarre and the unusual both in and about 
Weird Tales; for progress in appearance as 
well as contents. Trifles, readers will say, 
trifles small; yes, but trifles great indeed. 
Who will deny the grand improvement over 
the illustrations of, say, October, 1933, the 
present issue shows? The double-page table 
of contents as of 1932, the double-page lay- 
out for all illustrated stories as of June, 
1936, the neat, artistic, blocked-off cover of 
May, 1936, all these are but trifles, but they 
make for that perfection which is no trifle. 
Now that Conan’s career is over (nothing 
that I could say here could possibly express 
my regret at the loss of the unreplaceable 
Robert E. Howard and his barbarian, Solo- 
mon Kane, and gems like The Black Stone, 
Worms of the Earth, and The Gods of BaJ- 
Sagoth), I have found it of some interest to 
note the various depictions of Conan. J. M. 
Wilcox renders a credible portrait, H. S. De 
Lay’s conception is interesting, and Mrs. 
Brundage’s three pictures are well done, 
though only the first, I think (May, 1934) 
is much of a likeness. But the prize drawing 
of Conan (for me) is the one drawn by 
Hugh Rankin for Rogues in the House (Jan- 
uary, 1934). Here we see the tousled mane, 
the strong, handsome, but strange and ferine 
countenance that his many lemans found so 
captivating. And here is the sparseness of 


634 


^IRD TALES 


the panther, yet the implication of titanic 
strength, and withal a certain grace that is 

2 uite lacking in all other depictions of the 
immerian. This could well be at an earlier 
art of his career, while Napoli’s rugged 
ing shows him considerably later. One 
more request or two and I shall leave you in 
peace for the moment. Could we not have 
Mrs. Brundage’s portrayal of Jules de Gran- 
din soon? It has been at least five years 
since he has been on a cover; I have never 
seen him portrayed and I haven’t missed an 
issue since the one dated October, 1931. 
After reading one charaaer’s description of 
him, quote; 'If there were such a thing as a 
platinum-blond tomcat. I’m sure it would 
look like Doctor de Grandin.’ (Hands of 
the Dead, January, 1935) unquote, I have 
been watching each issue wherein a de Gran- 
din tale was promised, for a picture of the 
mercurial little Frenchman to appear. But, 
alas, no dice; is luck entirely against all of 
the readers who, like myself, yearn for a pic- 
ture of notre brave collegue, Jules ? I may as 
well ask for Northwest Smith on the cover, 
too, while the petition is up. Oh, well, Mr. 
Editor, don’t let it get you; just think of the 
thousands of readers (avid as myself) who 
do not plague you with little requests for 
odds and ends and things.” 

From the Orient 

Charles F. Choate writes from Peiping, 
China: "This is the first time I have written 
you, although I have been reading the maga- 
zine for about six months. 'The only thing I 
can see wrong is the cover. It is all right 
with me, but I know lots of people who 
tear it off as soon as they get the mag. It is 
all right to have the girl partially dressed 
but not like it is in this issue (July). The 
girls are plenty good, though. The best sto- 
ries in the July issue were Loot of the Vam- 
pire, Lost Paradise, and the reprint. The 
Ring of Thoth.” 

A Real Surprize Ending 

James N. Mooney, of Palms, California, 
writes: "The October issue'is the best this 
year. Glad to see St. John back. 'The cover 
is beautifully done and it is weird. I would 
suggest that you use him for the covers that 
you wish to be creepy and weird, and keep 
Brundage for the beautiful and fantastic 
girls, occasionally using a design by Senf 
and others. Finlay’s drawing for The Tree 


of Life is striking. He has worked a beau- 
tiful design into it. De Lay is another fine 
addition to your staff. The stories are excel- 
lent. Doom of the House of Duryea was a 
very powerful story, the surprize ending re- 
ally coming as a surprize. I usually suspect 
them before I read them, but this one was 
an exception. Henry Kuttner’s short had a 
very tricky ending too.” 

Weirder Cover 

John V. Baltadonis, of Philadelphia, 
writes: "While the cover by J. Allen St: 
John was not as well drawn as the covers by 
Mrs. Brundage, it was much weirder than 
any by her. The best story in the issue is 
Dorothy Quick’s quaint yarn, The Lost 
Door. 'This story is written in such an ap- 
pealing manner. Closely following come 
Robert Bloch’s and C. L. Moore’s tales, The 
Opener of the Way and The Tree of Life, 
respectively. I was glad to see the return of 
Northwest Smith. Virgil Finlay’s illustra- 
tions in the issue are superb. I am indeed 
pleased to note the return, in the next issue, 
of Jules de Grandin and his helpful aid. 
Doctor Trowbridge. 'The reprint. The Great 
Keinplatz Experiment, is very amusing. Tch, 
tch, what a predicament!” 

St. John’s Cover 

Donald Allgeier, of Springfield, Missouri, 
writes: "The cover of the Oaober WT is 
weird-looking all right, but it is a distinrt 
let-down after the beautiful work of Brun- 
dage. I don’t care for it. Nor do I like the 
illustration for Isle of the Undead, though I 
do not know who drew it. Virgil Finlay is 
fine as always, and De Lay is good. I like 
the latter’s conception of Conan. And, 
speaking of Conan, Red Nails gets first place 
in October. The Tree of Life and The Lost 
Door are in a tie for second, and Doom of 
the House of Duryea is third. Isle of the 
Undead and The Opener of the Way fell 
just a little short of excellence through slight 
imperfections. The Secret of Kralitz was 
very good, though somewhat reminiscent of 
Bloch’s Feast in the Abbey. I enjoyed the 
reprint from Doyle, finding it quite amusing 
and entertaining. The next issue promises to 
be an exceptional one. Everyone should be 
delighted at the return of de Grandin. Your 
authors have expressed the sorrow we all 
feel at Howard’s death better than I could. 
I’m glad that I have all the Conan stories 


WEIRD TALES 


635 


(and many of his others)'. I shall reread 
them often. In my opinion the three best 
yarns about Conan were The Scarlet Citadel, 
A Witch Shall be Born, and The Hour of 
the Dragon. Weird fiaion has lost its great- 
est writer of historical weird tales. We still 
aren’t having any contests, so I have a sug- 
gestion to make. Let’s have the readers vote 
on the five best WT authors — condua a poll 
of them all. Then print piaures and bio- 
graphical sketches about the five chosen. I’d 
selea Moore, Howard, Quinn, Hamilton, 
and Jacobi, in that order. You might also 
take a vote on the ten best stories of ail time 
and reprint the ten seleaed. I like the Sep- 
tember cover, but I’d rather like to see the 
words 'The Unique Magazine’ on every 
cover again. And what was the need of 
changing the dates again? You said there 
was no need of dating a magazine ahead 
and then you retract and conform to others’ 
practise. I see no need of this second 
change.” 

Cheap Horror-Thriller 

„ Donn Brazier, of Milwaukee, writes: 
"How could you print that disgusting, 
steeped-in-the-puip, horror-thriller. Isle of 
the Undead? I am just a new reader, having 
purchased my fifth copy; and I may become 
a former reader if any more such trash as 
that is printed. I had thought that Weird 
Tales had risen above the cheap, pulp hor- 
ror-thrillers, but after reading Isle of the 
Undead I wonder. . . . Keep Weird "Tales 

i weird — not horrible.” 

Knock! Knock! 

A reader from New York, who asks that 
we do not use her name, writes: "Since you 
ask for opinions on the stories, I will give 
mine, principally because I am so disap- 
pointecf with Isle of the Undead in the Oc- 
tober issue. It does not belong in your mag- 
azine. ... It is frankly sadistic and porno- 
graphic with its emphasis of nakedness, etc. 
You don’t need that any more than you need 
the Brundage naked covers. If they had fol- 
lowed the story I would not have objected to 
them so much, but they never came within a 
mile of the story. If the story spoke of a girl 
with long golden hair, Brundage put short 
black hair on her — she never got it right. I 
do not care for The Doors of Death either — 
it didn’t get anywhere. It was badly con- 
struaed. If you wanted a thriller of terror, 


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WEIRD TALES 


you could have had the servant drop dead as 
he went to answer the bell, and with no one 
else knowing the secret — that would have 
been a facer. But it didn’t get anywhere. 
The Opener of the Way is good, a really 
weird tale, for it leaves you with the idea 
that the soul of the father stayed in the 
Statue. The Lost Door is good. Doom of 
the House of Duryea is good, and The Se- 
cret of Kralitz will pass. The Tree of Life 
of course is the 'tops,' as are all of Moore’s 
stories. Moore is a marvelous find. Red 
Nails is about the only Conan story I have 
not been enthusiastic about — somehow it 
didn’t ‘click’ with me. But I can’t say how 
sorry I am about Howard. 'The poem by R. 
H. Barlow is splendid. I feel, too, as though 
Conan has been thrust back into Limbo^ and 
that isn’t right, with his vitality and courage 
and aliveness. I wish someone could pick up 
the torch Howard has let drop. Well, this is 
enough, I guess. As to Weird Tales, I sim- 
ply feel I can’t get along without it.” 

The Facts of Astronomy 

Arthur R. Mink, of Boise, Idaho, writes: 
"I am one of the recent converts to Weird 
Tales, having started reading your magazine 
for the science-fiction it contains — I am a 
science-fiction fan of good standing. I con- 
sider myself very fortunate in having a 
friend who is an old-time Weird fan. I 
have borrowed his collection, which I am 
now diligently reading. I think that your 
science-fiction stories are the best part of 
your magazine. I especially enjoyed The 
Man Who Was Two Men. Which brings 
me down to the subjea of this letter. In a 
recent issue (May) a letter by Mr. E. L. 
Mengshoel was printed. Among other 
things, Mr. Mengshoel had the effrontery to 
state that interplanetary stories might be in- 
teresting to those who knew none of the 
facts of astronomy. What I want to know is, 
'Where did he garner this jewel of misin- 
formation?’ I do know that his statement 
was an exaa contradiction of facts as I have 
observed them. In my own case, for in- 
stance, I have been an ardent amateur astron- 
omer for several years, and the more I learn 
of the 'facts of astronomy,’ the more I real- 
ize the plausibility of interplanetary stories. 
While I don’t claim to be a second Jeans, I 
will match my knowledge of astronomy, es- 
pecially in the field of nebulae, against his 
any day in the week. Unless the people who . 


make statements like his are prepared to bade 
them up with the knowledge in question 
they should steer clear of the subject. In case 
Mr. Mengshoel, or anyone else, wishes to 
enter into verbal combat with me on the sub- 
ject, I am at his disposal and he may 'choose 
his weapons.’ 'There has been considerable 
bandying about of the sentence, 'No one 
over the mental age of twelve years reads 
science-fiction.’ I would not presume to as- 
sert that I’m mentally older than twelve, al- 
though physically I am. Just let any unbi- 
ased person tell me — using the above sen- 
tence as a basis for comparison — the mental 
age of people who believe in vampires and 
werewolves, which science does not recog- 
nize as possible, but deride the possibility of 
interplanetary flight, which is considered as 
inevitable by most scientists. Let the anti- 
science-fictionists ponder on that before they 
again cast aspersions at that which they don’t 
understand. So, in view of the above, I put 
in a request for more science-fiction. No, I 
am not asking you to drop your vampires or 
your werewolves; just give us a little science- 
fiaion in each issue to take the nasty taste 
out of our mouths. I am greatly in favor of 
a department devoted to the investigation of 
weird knowledge; not legerdemain, but the 
old books and religions, such as that of the 
Druid-Worshippers. And I’ll bet that al- 
most every reader wants to know: Is there 
such a thing as the Necronomicon? If so, 
what and where? Why not give the readers 
a break? I am an ardent C. L. Moore fan, 
Moore’s stories are always beautiful in writ- 
ing-style if not in subject matter. More by 
C. L. Moore.” [The Necronomicon, that 
book by the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, so 
often referred to by WT writers, is part of 
the Lovecraft mythology, being a fictional 
invention of H. P. Lovecraft’s fertile brain, 
— The Editor.} 

An Admirer of Howard 

T. Gelbert, of Niagara Falls, New York, 
writes: "It is with deep regret that I learn 
of the death of Robert E. Howard. Being 
an avid reader of Weird Tales for some 
four years, no story has interested me more 
than a Conan the barbarian story. To my 
knowledge Howard was the one and only 
author who dared to introduce a bit of sex 
into his stories. In my mind he will live 
till I die as an incomparable author of the 
kind of weird tales a red-blooded man likes. 


WEIRD TALES 


May the good Lord reward him for the many 
happy hours he has given to so many Weird 
.Tales readers.” 

Oogy-Woogy Tales 

Gertrude Hemken, of Chicago, writes: 
"The Door Into Infinity was rather a chiller, 
one of those oogy-woogy tales that keeps one 
wondering what the deuce is going on be- 
hind that door which can be opened only by 
incantations, and what manner of strange 
entity moves in that world beyond our ken. 
Guess I didn’t like those woims, and I’m 
glad the hero saved his li’l wifie, and nassy 
nassy Chandra Dass was a goner. Goody, 
good) ! Yessir, it was exciting, ever’ bit of 
it. Doctor Satan is still very exciting and 
quite strange. The man is more or less of a 
mental genius. Somehow, though, I don’t 
seem quite satisfied with the stories. They 
end too abruptly. (Or am I expecting too 
much?) Werewolf of the Sahara — ah, that 
was a tale! First it portrays my ideal of a 
tall blond man, and then strong minds and 
will-powers, and werewolves and the mys- 
terious wastes of the Sahara. Fascinating and 
frightening episodes of a land that remains 
unknown, for all the probings of scientists 
and explorers. The Medici Boots is another 
appeaser to my insatiable appetite for tales 
of ancient — or rather medieval — Europe. 
Lovely ladies, witches and what not, all 
bound together to bring this evil to the pres- 
ent day and a woman’s vanity to learn if her 
footsies were smaller than those of the poor 
gal of centuries agone. No kiddin’, it was 
ver’, ver’ good.” 

Ten Best Stories 

N. W. Siringer, of Lakewood, Ohio, 
writes: “Congratulations on printing such 
fine stories as The Room of Shadows, 
Strange Interval and The Door Into Infinity. 
Keep the issues well scattered with Clark 
Ashton Smith’s and H. P. Lovecraft’s little 
gems. The ten best stories in the last three 
years have been; The Solitary Hunters, by 
Keller; The Trail of the Cloven Hoof, by 
Eadie; The Seven Geases, by C. A. Smith; 
A Witch Shall Be Born, by Howard; Once 
in a Thousand Years, by Middleton; Doctor 
Satan, by Paul Ernst; The Six Sleepers, by 
Hamilton; The Hour of the Dragon, by 
Howard; The Graveyard Rats, by Kuttner; 
The Room of Shadows, by Arthur J. Burks. 
The death of Robert E. Howard, the leading 


<637j 


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WEIRD TALES 


writer of Weird Tales, leaves a gap that 
will be hard to fill. His stories have been 
filled with aaion and suspense, and his 
greatest asset was that they were written in 
excellent style ; his characters have lived and 
loved throughout them, and have made the 
reader live and love with them.” 

Cover Comments 

A. L. Jordan, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, writes: 
"I still do not like to see so much space 
given to readers’ letters. The best magazines 
do not follow this practise. It is not neces- 
sary for you to spread titles and authors’ 
names all over the cover. If they must be 
on the outside, they can be placed at the 
bottom. With some magazines, I will pass 
up an issue because I do not see a favorite 
name on the cover, but I find that Weird 
Tales has always had so many good stories 
in it that I buy it anyhow. I buy the maga- 
zine because it has a beautiful nude on the 
cover. However, I should like to see some 
expression other than horror on the face. In 
the stories there is often a character of an 
irresistible siren who lures men to doom. I 
should like to see one of these women if the 
artist can combine the sweet and evil in one 
face. There is, likewise, the fighting woman 
like Jirel of Joiry, who must be beautiful 
enough to represent on the cover.” 

A Truly Creepy Story 

Sylvia Eyler, of Frederick, Maryland, 
writes; ”1 have been a silent reader of WT for 
some time again. . . . I’d like to say a few 
things about the stories. Black Canaan in 
June was truly creepy, and by far the best of 
that issue. I like scientific yarns like The 
Brain in the Jar, also, as there is a trace of 
possibility of there being facts as a founda- 
tion on which the story was built. Some of 
the stories I did not care for — such as Mor- 
'decai’s Pipe, Lethe, Harbor of Ghosts, 
etc. ... In the September number Were- 
wolf of the Sahara was easily one of the 
finest chillers you -could find, with The Door 
Into Infinity a good second. The reprint, 
Four Wooden Stakes, h good, for I’ve read 
of vampires, and old people believed in 
them along with 'spooks,’ 'ha’nts,’ 'spells’ 
and the like! I like a lot of the oriental, 
for there are more queer things about ori- 
entals than about a plain American!” 

An Author Comments 

Clark Ashton Smith writes from his home 


in Auburn, California: "I enjoyed the cur- 
rent issue of WT, which seems to strike a 
pretty high level. Red Nails, The Opener of 
the Way, The Tree of Life, Doom of the 
House of Duryea, and The Secret of Kra- 
litz, are all noteworthy yarns. I admired 
Barlow’s fine sonnet in memory of R. E. H. 
It seems hard to realize that Howard’s work 
is at an end, and that a whole world of 
noble myth and fantasy has perished in his 
dying. What he has left behind, however, 
may well outlast many things that have been 
acclaimed and widely touted as literature.” 

A Tiptop Issue 

B. M. Reynolds, of North Adams, Massa- 
chusetts, writes: "You deserve plenty of 
commendation for the October issue of 
Weird Tales. A fine job, no mistake about 
that. Red Nails was excellent and I finished 
the yarn with regret. That being the final 
one about Conan, we cannot help but real- 
ize that two doughty warriors passed on to- 
gether, Mr. Howard and Conan — two whom 
we are bound to miss more and more as the 
months go by. The Tree of Life, by Moore, 
was fine. Moore never disappoints, having 
that rare gift of imagination inexhaustible 
which keeps this author’s yarns different. 
The Lost Door was the most original ghost 
story that I have seen in many a moon. 'The 
women are certainly making a place for 
themselves as weird-fictionists. Doom of the 
House of Duryea was the first really good 
vampire tale in a long time. It was written 
convincingly and contained a new and origi- 
nal 'twist,’ not the same old stereotyped plot. 
The Secret of Kralitz, The Op ener of the 
Way, The Doors of Death and that humor- 
ous little yarn of Conan Doyle’s were all 
good. But Isle of the Undead didn’t seem 
to click. That one was full of 'stock char- 
acters,’ unconvincing and uninteresting. It 
seems to me that Henry Kuttner’s work has 
been very good to date. He writes in the 
Lovecraftian manner and does a pretty fair 
job of it, too. And, speaking of Lovecraft, 
many thanks for scheduling two new stories 
by him. Now that he has returned to the WT 
fold let’s keep him there. The verse selec- 
tions were tiptop, especially Mr. Barlow’s 
tribute to Mr. Howard, and the cover by St* 
John the best in years. . . . How about an- 
other of those space-horror yarns, which! 
used to be so popular? Something like The. 
Space-Eaters? You haven’t given us one ia 


.WEIRD TALES 


639 


years. Get Frank Belknap Long, Jr., back 
on the job. He knows how to do that kind 
and we haven’t heard from him for eons. If 
you don’t give us one soon, I shall be tempt- 
ed to do one, myself, and send it in. . . . I 
was disappointed at not finding a new serial 
story listed for next month. Are you dis- 
continuing them? Remember, Mr. Editor, 
serials are the backbone of any magazine, 
and 'to be continued in our next’ is a strong 
incentive to keep buying.” 

The House of Duryea 

Julius Hopkins, of Washington, D. C., 
writes: "The Oaober WT is one of the best 
issues this year. Picking first place in this 
number is like looking for a needle in a hay- 
stack. However, before commenting on the 
stories, I must express my enthusiasm for the 
truly weird cover. St. John gave us an illus- 
tration that is really representative of the 
type of stories that are in WT. For first 
place I pick Doom of the House of Duryea, 
by Earl Peirce, Jr. It is an unusual and grip- 
ping vampire tale with modern men in a 
modern setting. Because this story is con- 
vincingly weird and up-to-date, I award the 
top spot to it. I’d like to see more of Mr. 
Peirce’s work in WT. In second place and 
close on the heels of the Duryea tale — so 
close that first place is almost occupied by 
Siamese twins — stands The Lost Door, by 
Dorothy Quick. I enjoyed this story as much 
as any I’ve read this year. I am still wonder- 
ing what explanation Jim would give for the 
disappearance of Wrexler. The people of 
Rougemont and Wrexler’s friends in Amer- 
ica would probably want to know too. How- 
ever, that does not detract from the excel- 
lence of Miss Quick’s yarn. Third place is 
grabbed by The Opener of the Way, the lat- 
est masterpiece by Robert Bloch. The weird 
atmosphere is built up very nicely and sus- 
tained at the conclusion. Although Isle of 
the Undead, by Eshbach, copped the cover, 
I cared less for this story than any in the 
issue. Just another formula fantasy without 
enough surprizes. You’d better stay away 
from this kind. ... The Secret of Kralitz, 
by Kuttner, is an excellent fantasy, and I 
rate it among the best short shorts in WT 
this year. The Doors of Death and the re- 
print, The Great Keinplaiz Experiment, are 
both very good stories and I enjoyed them 
tremendously.” 


mXT MONTH 

The Thing on 
the Door-Step 

By H. P. Lovecraft 

T his is a powerful tale by one of 
the acknowledged masters of 
weird fiction. The story, whose locale 
is set in the midst of witch-haunted 
New England, weaves its spell grad- 
ually, and the horror creeps and 
grows, to spring at last upon the read- 
er in all its hideous totality. 


T his new story by Mr. Lovecraft 
shows the superb craftsmanship 
and literary skill that have made his 
style more imitated than that of any 
other writer of weird fiction in the 
world. This astonishing weird novel- 
ette, with its tremendous climax, will 
be published complete 

in the January issue of 

WEIRD TALES 

on sale December 1st 


To avoid missing your copy, clip and mail this 
coupon today for SPECIAL SUBSCRIPTION 
OFFER, (You Save 25c) “ 


WKIRD TAI.l;8 
840 N. Michigan Ave.' 

Chicago, 111. 

Enclosed find $1.00, for which send me the next 
five issues of WEIRD TALES, to begin with the 
January issue. (Special offer void unless remit* 
tance is accompanied by coupon.) 


Name . 
Address 


aty 


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640 


WEIRD TALES 


Concise Comments 

Miss Elvina Smith, of Bloomfield, New 
Jersey, writes: "It has been only since June 
that 1 have been reading Weird Tales. I 
like these stories because there's adventure 
and also because it’s something different. So 
far I’ve liked most of them, especially Loot 
of the Vampire. Werewolf of the Sahara 
and Red Nails. I wasn’t so interested in 
When the World Slept or Isle of the Un- 
dead because it was a love-ending affair. I’d 
like more of an exciting ending. So please 
make some of your weird tales end up 
weird.” 

John Elsey, of Detroit, writes: '"The 
cover on tlie October issue is swell. I like 
it because it is weird. After all, WT should 
have a weird cover as it is a weird story 
magazine.” 

F. F. Kershall, of Coronado, California, 
writes: "I do not think The Door Into In- 
finity worthy of Edmond Hamilton. Can’t 
understand how the editor let it get in the 
magazine.” 

Alvin V. Pershing writes from Anderson, 
Indiana: "I desire to state to you, that as far 
as I am concerned, one of the very finest 
and supremely outstanding stories which has 
been printed in the last several issues was 
The Faceless God, by Bloch. It seems to me 
that Bloch did not receive the credit due him 
for this truly 'weird’ tale.” 


Robert A. Madle, of Philadelphia, writes: 
"In the current (October) issue, Dorothy 
Quick’s eery horror yarn receives first place 
in my estimation. Following The Lost Door 
comes the last part of the last Conan adven- 
ture, Red Nails, by the inimitable Robert E. 
Howard. Howard’s death is certainly a blow 
to weird fiction. I’ll miss his stories of that 
super he-man, Conan.” 

George N. Heflick, of Hiram, Ohio, 
writes: "Please accept my heartiest con- 
gratulations on the illustration by J. Allen 
St. John on the cover of the October issue of 
Weird Tales — the first really weird cover 
you have offered in many, many months. 
May there be more of the same!” 

Your Favorite Stories 

Readers, what stories do you like best in 
our October issue? Write a letter or fill out 
the coupon at the bottom of this page and 
send it in to the Eyrie, Weird Tales. The 
last part of Red Nails, by the late Robert E. 
Howard, was your favorite story in the Oc- 
tober issue, as shown by your votes and let- 
ters to the Eyrie. Four stories are in a neck- 
and-neck race for second place as the cur- 
rent issue goes to press: The Opener of the 
Way, by Robert Bloch, Doom of the House 
of Duryea, by Earl Peirce, Jr., The Tree of 
Life, by C. L. Moore, and The Lost Door, 
by Dorothy Quick. 


MY FAVORITE STORIES IN THE DECEMBER WEIRD TALES ARE; 

Story Remarks 

( 1 ) 

( 2 ) 

(3) 

I do not like the following stories : 

(1) Why? 


( 2 ) 

It will help us to know what kind of 
stories you want in Weird Tales if you 
will fill out this coupon and mail it to 
The Eyrie, Weird Tales, 840 N. Michigan 
Ave., Chicago, 111. 


r 

I Reader’s name and address; 

I 

I 

I 

I 


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this bathing mystery — a story pul- 
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2. Buff — A cub reporter and a 
death mystery — a story that 
works up tp a crashing climax. 

3. The Triangle of Terror — A 
gooseflesh story that will send 
the cold shivers up your spine. 

4. Crimson Poppies — Dr. Howes 
evolves a flendi.'^h plot to Inherit 
the wealth of a lunatic niilllon- 
ttlre. 

6. The Sign of the Toiul — An 

eerie detect Ivo story, full of ex- 
citing HiluHtions and mysterious 
deaths. 

6 . The Mystery at Kagle Lodge — 

Soul-gripping, faHcinaiing, tense, 
full of action — You will move in 
the land of make-believe with a 
touch of the unreal. 

7. The Web — This tah^ threads 
the sinister net that was torn 
asunder by the murder of James 
Blake. 

8. The Glass Eye — The convict 
worked out a clever and dia- 
bolical scheme, but a dead man’s 
eye betrayed him. 

9 Ten Dangerous Hours — Bris- 
tling with excitement and full of 
surprises — a remarkable story 
with thrills galore. 

10. Disappearing Bullets 
Crammed with blood-curdling ac- 
tion and strange happenings in 
the underworld — master-mind 
crooks and criminals. 

1 1 . The Green-Eyed Monster — A 
thrilling book, replete with star- 
tling climaxes and bristling with 
action. 

12. Deering-Do — A vivid tale 
of Chinamen, opium traffic, the 
secret service, and desperate 
fighting. 


R ead how Experience Smith, master detective, solved the 
baffling mystery of “Disappearing Bullets” — a swift-action 
story with dramatic situations. Each one an exciting de- 
tective story. These novels formerly sold for the regular price 
of $1.00 per set. Now, for a limited time only, we are giving 
them away absolutely free with a year’s subscription to 
Oriental Stories, the latest magazine of thrilling mystery ad- 
venture stories. 

SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY OFFER 

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iqual. The inscrutable mysti-ry of Tibet, the veiled allure of 
Oriental hareiim. the ehurge of fierce Arab tribesmen, the 
singing of Hlmon(l-<‘yod inai<h‘n8 under a Japanese moon, the 
whirling of diTvlshen, the barbaric Bj)len(lor of mediaeval sul- 
lann, ihe ageless life of Egyi)t- from all those the story-writers 
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Y ou will want to read the thrilling adventures 
of Dr. Ferdinand Gresham, the eminent 
American astronomer, in his encounters 
with Kwo-Sung-tao, high priest of the Seun- 
Il’sin (the Sect of Two Moons). The Suen-H’sin 
are the sorcerers of China, and the most mur- 
derously diabolical breed of human beings on 
this earth. Each turn of the page increases the 
suspense when you follow Dr. Gresham to take 
j)art in the hellish ceremonies in the Temple of 
the Moon God — when he crosses the Mountains 
of Fear — half starves on the dead plains of 
P^sunsz’chuen — swims the River of Death — 
sleeps in the Caves of Nganhwiu, where the hot 
winds never cease and the dead light their 
campfires on their journey to Nirvana. Here Is 
a story that will thrill you. 

Amazing Subscription Offer 

This book formerly sold for the regular price of 
$1.50. Now you can have it free for a limited 
time only with a six months' subscription to 
WEIRD TALES. Simply send $1.50, the regular 
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TALES, and this splendid book is yours abso- 
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This offer may be withdrawn at any time, so 
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If you haven’t read 
this thrilling Chinese 
story you have missed 
one of the strangest 
stories ever told. Ex- 
citing incidents fol- 
low in such quick 
succession that the 
interest in the story 
is at white heat all 
of the time. 


This book is beauti- 
fully bound in rich 
cloth, with attrac- 
tive colored jacket. 
It is our gift to you 
and will make a val- 
uable addition to 
your library.